Thursday, March 1, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun regarding pre-budget consultations by government.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
It is the opinion of this House that:
(1) decisions about dispensing money from Government funding programs, such as the former Community Development Fund (the CDF), should be based on the principles of honesty, integrity and fairness;
(2) such decisions should not be based on the principle of political interference; and
(3) comments by the Member for Watson Lake in the local media that attempt to justify his former government's political interference in CDF applications are improper and ill-advised;
THAT this House recognizes that the audit of the CDF, reported that the political involvement "placed managers of the program in the awkward position of being directed to violate the program terms of reference"; and
THAT this House urges the Liberal Government to continue its practice of keeping Government funding programs free of political interference, and to make funding decisions based on the principles of honesty, integrity and fairness, instead of making those decisions based on political motivation, as was common practice under the previous NDP Government.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Liberal Government is spending too much money setting up the $2.36 million Alcohol and Drug Secretariat; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to reverse its spending priorities by dramatically reducing these excessive administration costs in order to provide more money for new programs to deal with Yukon's FAS/FAE problem.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Film industry incentive program
Mr. McRobb: I have a question today for the acting Minister of Tourism. For several days now, stories have been swirling around town about a television series coming to the Yukon based on the writings of Jack London. Mr. Speaker, this series would bring professional producers to the territory who are very interested in shooting here. It now appears that this series could be in jeopardy because of the actions, or inactions, of this government. This could be the door-breaker that our industry has been praying for. Can the acting minister tell us what this government is doing to secure this series coming to the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the Call of the Wild TV series required a substantial financial commitment over and above its eligibility under the Yukon film incentive program. We were hoping to confirm the eligibility for substantial funding under our existing incentive program, and due to other expending priorities, we are unable to provide the additional subsidy requested at this time.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, where are the priorities of this Liberal government? They claim they wanted to rebuild the economy, but, instead, they're mired in the past, focusing instead on what happened years ago with things like the community development fund. Where is their vision? Where are they looking toward the future?
Now, according to the President of the Northern Film and Video Association, this series has potential to run for several years and could employ as many as 130 Yukoners in the first year alone - long-term jobs, Mr. Speaker. It's well-known that film productions also bring enormous benefits to the local economy in terms of hotel rooms, meals, equipment rentals, vehicle rentals, and so on. I should remind the minister that British Columbia's booming film industry got its start with a modest CBC television series called The Beachcombers. Is this government really willing to let this opportunity slip through its fingers and chase those benefits to someplace, such as Alkali Lake, B.C.?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thanks again for the question.
In reference to the CDF being a past program, you're absolutely correct, Mr. Speaker, it was a past program and it was overexpended by $16 million. When we talk about wasting of funds with political interference, I feel some of that has had that particular problem.
Mr. Speaker, the proposal, as it was submitted, as I mentioned earlier, would have required a financial commitment that was over and above what is available under the current Yukon film incentive program, almost double what is already in that fund. However, if the people who want to make this film are interested in submitting a new proposal that would be less of a financial burden to Yukoners, we are eager to hear what they have to say.
So, the door is still open, Mr. Speaker. We have not closed the door but, under the old proposal, we cannot afford it at this point.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, this government will get its fingers jammed in the door when it slams shut because of its inaction. Yukoners know the previous government left $64 million for this government. If a particular project doesn't meet the criteria of a program, this government has the ability to bring in a supplementary budget. And for something as important as this, this side would have no problem supporting it.
So much for a government that's committed to rebuilding the economy.
Mr. Speaker, if this acting minister doesn't understand what's at stake here, I challenge him to commission a qualified, independent accounting firm to crunch the numbers for them. Where's the Liberals' business sense?
Will the acting minister at least make a commitment to sit down with industry representatives and other groups, such as TIA and the chambers of commerce, as quickly as possible to work out the wrinkles and get this project back on track?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, this $64-million surplus, as the Auditor General did say that we had, is absolutely correct. The only problem is that over half of it was spent when we stepped into this office - half of it. The last government spent $35 million.
Then we brought in a supplementary to pay down the other half of the bills that weren't in the budgets, as they should have been. We had to pay electricity bills, power bills and utility bills in schools, which were not line items.
Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we are very interested in building a viable film industry in the Yukon. But to agree to a proposal as it was submitted means that we would have to commit all the money that we now have available under the current Yukon film incentive program. This would prevent us from pursuing any other programs that may be presented to us. However, if the people who want to make this film are interested in presenting us with a new proposal, we are eager and willing to listen. The door is not closed.
Mr. Speaker, the only person jamming a finger in the door is the member opposite, because the door is still open.
Question re: Film industry incentive program
Mr. Fentie: I would like to follow up with the Premier on the very same question. It's obvious that the acting Minister of Tourism is rapidly getting the label of "long on dialogue, short on delivery". This is an initiative that we can't afford to let go by. It's not a question of being able to afford this. We can't afford to let it slip by. It quickly became evident that this particular area - the film industry - under the previous government had the potential of becoming a major boost to Yukon's economy - a major boost.
Let me look at some numbers here. The members opposite really like audits, well here is one: this $1.5-million investment would translate into $45 million to $50 million of investment in this territory, creating hundreds of jobs, especially in a time when most needed - in the winter.
Can the Premier not see the merit of a film industry in this territory, and will the Premier now override the acting Minister of Tourism and come forward with the investment so that we can have this industry come to the Yukon and help Yukoners who so desperately need it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I would agree with the member opposite. The member opposite is correct about the motivation and the potential of film. But, Mr. Speaker, we need a good business case in order to proceed. We have only a $6-million surplus in this coming budget. We do not have the flexibility, as the last government had, mainly because all of the extra dollars were spent by the last government on a lot of their programs, like some of these community development fund projects that they interfered with.
We are more than willing to move in this direction; we only have limited funds. If we were to commit all of our funds to this one project, that would mean that all other film production would not be able to take place. And we are in a financial situation that we are not - recently in our time - used to. We used to have big surpluses; we don't any more. We have commitments, and we have to follow through on them.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's obvious that the Premier wants no part of this, so I would take that to mean that the Premier does not support a film industry in this territory. It's evident that this Liberal government, time and time again, has broken their contracts with Yukon people when it comes to rebuilding the economy. They shut down 100-plus jobs in the forest sector, because they said that there wasn't a business case. Well, here we have another example of no business case.
The business case is clear. There is $45 million to $50 million of investment in this territory for a $1.5 million government incentive to kick-start the industry. This minister has a duty to ensure that Yukoners can benefit from investment. This is the party that was the champion of investment during the election campaign. Why won't this government stand up and be counted, make a decision and do something for Yukoners? In 10 months, they have delivered zero.
Will this government now change its mind and get something going in the film industry by at least contributing to this project? Will the government do so?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Once again, thank you for that question.
Number one, where this member gets this $45-million to $50-million industry, I am not sure. I think it's much like the so-called surplus that the members opposite keep touting as being in our bank account.
The members opposite must read the budget documents in order to know what's in there. Those documents are put together by our professionals. They are people who know what money is all about, where we're at and where we're not going to be. Unfortunately, the member opposite still does not understand that we do not have that kind of flexibility.
I would correct another inaccuracy. We support the film industry, Mr. Speaker. We believe in the film industry, but we're not going to put all our eggs in one basket. There are many other demands in this community for other film initiatives. We are not going to give it all to one firm. We said they could come back with a new idea and new thoughts, with a new direction, and we would look at it. We didn't say the door was closed.
Mr. Fentie: The minister asked where I got the figures. The figures I am quoting came off the news interview from CBC today. I also can tell the minister that I watched The Beachcombers myself, and I have an inkling of what this means to this territory, should we proceed with this project. This government is lacking in vision. That's the problem. This is not a question of being broke. They have lots of money. Their own projections have shown that, at the end of March 2001, there will be at least a $45-million surplus in this territory. Surely, surely, this government, which claims to be fiscally responsible, can see the importance, the validity and the merit of investing $1.5 million in the film industry for this territory to kick-start it.
Will they now come to their senses and do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think that, once again, Mr. Speaker, we have NDP math. The Member for Kluane said we had an $80-million surplus, and then we were down to a $60-million surplus, and now we're down to a $45-million surplus. I think the members opposite have to realize that we also have a deficit budget. That means we have to pay those bills, so we do not have a $45-million surplus. As the documents before you state, we have a $6-million surplus and that is it.
The important part for Yukoners is that they want the best direction that we can move in. We must be fiscally responsible and we're doing that.
The important part for us is that we do believe in incentives; we do believe in supporting industry; we do believe in supporting the film industry. But as I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, we cannot put all our eggs in one basket. We need to ensure that other groups and other individuals will have that same opportunity, and if we responded to this immediately the way it's laid out, then that's what we would have to do. We would have to give all the money to this one project. We cannot afford that.
We are open to a new idea, a new thought, a new direction, so we invite the proponents to come back with some new ways of trying to do this.
And to say it's worth $45 million, I'm not sure where that comes from, Mr. Speaker. That is something that's based on something else.
Question re: Oil and gas, offshore exploration
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier. Now, here's a way to increase revenues for Yukon, Mr. Speaker. There are vast reserves of oil and gas to the west of us on our northern boundary in Alaska. There are vast reserves of oil and gas in the Mackenzie Valley and the Beaufort Sea outside of the Mackenzie Valley. Chances are, in between those two areas there's a great deal of oil and gas, but it's in an area off the northern boundary of the Yukon where the Yukon doesn't have jurisdiction or control or ownership.
Now, the minister indicated yesterday, Mr. Speaker, that she was going to fight tooth and nail to stop any pipeline that would go through those waters. Why won't the minister fight tooth and nail to have the Yukon's boundary extended, like all of the other northern territories, and recognized in amendments to the Yukon Act that were tabled in the federal Parliament just this June? Why can't we be treated the same, and why can't we have control in that area, where there's such a vast potential for oil and gas?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Klondike once again has presented a shopping list of questions - three issues: the development in our oil and gas sector; the progress of devolution, including the Yukon Act, and the issues surrounding Yukon's offshore.
I would like to, certainly, in my first response, address the oil and gas sector. I'm pleased to see that the member opposite has recognized that this is an emerging industry in the Yukon and generating Yukon revenues and putting money into our economy and, most importantly, putting Yukoners to work. We are in pursuit of a second land sale, and I anticipate that closing March 14 - later this month, Mr. Speaker - and I anticipate continued good progress in Yukon's oil and gas sector.
Mr. Jenkins: The Premier failed to answer the question. The question is quite specific. Why can't the Yukon be treated the same as the other two territories in the north and be given the rights to offshore water in our northern boundaries? The boundary currently is the historical high-water mark for Yukon. Northwest Territories has care and control of that area where there is such a vast potential. The Premier is not prepared to take up the issue with her federal counterparts in Ottawa. She is too interested in becoming the Premier of a have-not province rather than seeing some benefits accrue to Yukon. Why will the Premier not fight tooth and nail to see that our northern offshore boundary is equal to that of the other two northern territories?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Once again the member opposite is somewhat factually challenged in that the offshore boundary issue is one that I have discussed with his predecessor, with their research staff, as leader of the official opposition - one that the former Government Leader and I spoke about at length. We had three constitutional lawyers in the room. We have gone over and over and over this in the House and in briefings.
The issue that the member is not grasping is the fact that we, in Yukon, are not not pursuing something. We are having the same rules apply as others do. The member opposite is talking about lines on a map and refuses to believe, not my words, but the advice of constitutional experts who explain over and over to the Yukon Party that this is the situation, that Yukon is not different with respect to offshore and offshore resources. Yes, we have undertaken that work and we have urged Ottawa to establish the offshore committee, as they committed to do in oil and gas. But the issue around the boundary is a constitutional matter, and the member is failing to grasp the advice that not only I have presented previously in this House, but that has been presented to him and his party in briefings. He just refuses to acknowledge that there is another opinion out there.
Mr. Jenkins: The issue is that Yukoners are being treated like second-class colonial areas of Canada, when you apply the same set of rules to Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. We are different - very different.
The Liberal election platform was entitled, it's all about the Future. Can the Premier advise the House why she is selling out Yukon's future in the Beaufort Sea, and what Yukoners stand to gain by this Liberal sellout?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there has been no sellout. There will be no sellout. This Premier is as committed to the Yukon as any other lifelong Yukoner is committed to the Yukon. We are here doing our job.
There is another opinion that is contrary to that of the member with respect to the boundaries. It's an opinion that not only I respect, but one that the previous Government Leader respected. Several constitutional lawyers have advised us with respect to this, that the member opposite's information is incorrect and that the member's opinion is incorrect.
It just appears pointless to the viewing public that I'm saying something about the member opposite being wrong and the member opposite is saying that I'm wrong. Perhaps we could resolve this matter if the member would agree that we could table the written information that has been provided in a briefing and if the member opposite would at least respect that opinion. If we could have that, we could have some progress in this matter.
Question re: Workers' advocate
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Mr. Speaker, one of the amendments that the New Democrat government introduced to the Workers' Compensation Act - and it's enshrined - is the independent workers' advocate position. The Liberals supported that amendment, and I would like to read a quote from the Liberal member of the day: "I'm very pleased to see the position put in the act, so that it can't be removed at the whim of somebody who may not be pleased with the decisions."
Now, is the minister aware that the solicitor for the board has filed a motion in the Supreme Court to deny the workers' advocate the ability to represent injured workers in court?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I thank the member for that question. The whole objective with the workers' advocate office is to have it as an independent body. That's why it is located under Justice. For myself or the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board to have any contact or any interference with what the workers' advocate would be doing would be, again, interference, which is not acceptable. So I would have to say to the member opposite that we have very little contact with any direction that they take or where they go.
Mr. Keenan: I realize that you have very little contact, Mr. Speaker, and I'm not talking about anything other than a policy issue at this point in time. The member, the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, has every right to provide the leadership and policy initiatives. So, again, we're not talking about anything but policy at this point in time.
The intent of this motion, Mr. Speaker, is to prevent the workers' advocate from representing injured workers in court. Now, this workers' advocate has already represented injured workers in court, has won most cases that he has ever come face to face with, and has been very successful at it. Maybe, Mr. Speaker, people's noses are out of joint and maybe that's the problem.
I'd like to know, will this minister - and does this minister - support that board move and does it represent government policy?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thanks again for the question, Mr. Speaker. We definitely support the work of the workers' advocate. We definitely support their role in trying to address the many needs of injured workers, and we want to be part of the process of solutions, not of creating more problems.
Hopefully, that will give the member opposite the answer the member is seeking, because I don't know where the idea came from that we didn't support it. I have said three times now that we definitely are supportive of what the workers' advocate program does.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, this reminds me of the election. They are supportive of this. They have every answer for every action in the world, but today, on a pure policy question that involves injured workers, all that we get is an action of support and nothing of leadership. I am asking again. The reason that the act was amended, that it was supported in this House, was so that the workers would have access to that advocate. I am very concerned - and obviously it sounds like the minister is very concerned - about the precedent that could be set through this action if the board or the lawyer is successful in doing this. Now, I know that you share the concern. Can the minister please tell me what he will do about that concern in leadership?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I find it very difficult to see where the member opposite wants me to go with the answer here. I have made it very clear that we do support the workers' advocate office; we do support the policies that have led up to that. I am not going to interfere in the operation of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board - if that is what the member opposite means, that I should interfere and try to promote what I believe should happen versus what the board of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board suggests. That's what the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board is all about; it's an arm's-length distance from the politicians.
So, again, I am still a little mystified about what the member opposite wants me to support here. I said yes, the workers' advocate does a very fine job. That's why the workers' advocate was put in place. What the board does is under their jurisdiction as a board. I will not interfere with what the board does. And we have a number of things happening with the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board since we became government, and we are very pleased about these positive moves that have taken place since we have become government. They are listed in the paper; they are listed by the injured workers - so we are very happy as to how the whole workers' compensation process is starting to unfold in helping those people who need it most. So, again, I thank him for the question and if it is more than that, then he can send me a note and I will clarify that for him.
Question re: Workers' advocate
Mr. Keenan: This question will be representing the same issue. I'm starting to get a bit of a belief here, Mr. Speaker, that the minister doesn't know what is going on with the workers' advocate, because if the minister spoke about some of the actions and provided some of the answers that are within his bailiwick, I would be getting some answers. I'm not asking for interference, Mr. Speaker. This House sets the policy directions, and it's up to this House to ensure that that policy is implemented.
The member speaks and blows a little smoke up his own tube here, Mr. Speaker, saying "since we've been here". But, Mr. Speaker, those positions of the Workers' Compensation Board in the paper are looking back for answers. We should be looking forward.
I'd like to know, Mr. Speaker: does the minister agree that the workers should have access to informed representations of disputes with the board in order to reach the course of action as portrayed in the act?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The answer is yes.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I'm very pleased to hear that, Mr. Speaker. Maybe at this point in time we can make a little bit of movement toward that.
Does the minister support the same principle of access when it comes to injured workers, and will he advise the board that this is a policy of the Yukon government? And I ask this question, Mr. Speaker, because I'd say that there is a parallel here with the single mother on welfare who needs to go to court to seek a maintenance enforcement order.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, as I've said earlier, I will not get politically involved here. This is not for the minister to become political with the board. I work with the board on the basis of information and, as the member opposite says, trying to direct policy. If there is a weakness in the policy, then I want to hear that so we can move forward with that.
If it's me directly getting involved in situations and cases and so on, the answer is no, I won't do that. I think it's very important that we as politicians stay at least an arm's distance away from these particular boards that were set up to administer programs that are very important for Yukoners. The workers' advocate does a very fine job, and my understanding is that that is the whole role of setting that particular program up, so that it could bring to light, to the front, those issues that are of major concern. And that is happening; that's really what we want. And the fact that the past government set that up - it should be appreciated that it was a good move, because obviously it's doing what it was intended to do.
Mr. Keenan: He praises the previous government and he thumps us for not doing the right thing, and he keeps insinuating that I'm asking him to politically interfere. I'm not asking for political interference, Mr. Speaker. I'm asking for just a tad of leadership around this organization. That's not interference. It's leadership.
And they have so many chances to show leadership, like the previous speaker speaking about the film initiatives.
The Workers' Compensation Act now states that the workers' advocate, and the word here is "shall" assist or, at their request represent, a worker or a dependent of a deceased worker in respect of any claim for compensation. That's portrayed in the act as it is right now. The motion that the board's lawyer has filed may well contravene the spirit of that act, if not the letter of it.
Regardless of the outcome of the present case, is the minister willing to work with the Minister of Justice to come up with an amendment to the act that would clarify the role of the advocate to include representing workers in court?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, we're always willing to move forward. If that means that something of that nature has to be done, we're always willing to listen, and if it's going to expedite and make things much smoother, so that it guarantees those kinds of conditions, absolutely correct, we would be more than interested in following up with some honest, positive direction.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon everybody. I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Netro: I would like all members of the Legislature to help me make welcome the teachers in the gallery today.
Chair: That being done, do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are resuming consideration of Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Chair: General consideration last night ended with Mr. Duncan. Ms. Duncan, do you wish to continue general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just to advise the members opposite that, before we adjourned last evening, we started to get into some specifics with regard to individual departments. I would just ask members that we return to general debate on the budget. I am certainly prepared to answer any of their questions. However, on specific questions, I would refer to the departmental debate. Thank you.
Mr. Fairclough: I was quite surprised, again, in the answers that we got during Question Period about the finances of government. It is unclear what message the government is trying to give to Yukoners about the finances of government. What we have is a budget that was tabled with their numbers, and that is basically what we are using.
We're constantly told that we're wrong with our numbers on this side of the House.
The Liberal government is now in a position to take positions as a party and as a government. We didn't hear any of that during the time the Liberals were in opposition. We didn't hear any positions during the elections and we didn't hear any positions when they got elected, except for a lot of promises to the people on the doorsteps and to Yukoners in general.
They said they were going to be open and accountable and fiscally responsible. One of the first things they promised Yukoners was to pass the NDP budget in its entirety. I keep coming back to that, and we will for a long time, because it's important that people realize that that was what the promise was out there.
Since then, we've seen the Liberal government cut programs that were very important to communities, like Mayo, for example, with the school. It's delayed. It's delayed one year, and that one year means a lot to the community and how they put together their own internal programs, as a community. Haines Junction is in the same position, seeing what they thought they were going to get with the budget being cut.
The Liberal government laid out their seven promises. They are basically to check on delivery periodically. A year from now, at the end of their mandate, we can all evaluate how well things have gone.
I have asked the Premier a number of questions with regard to what was once their top priority in the throne speech - settling land claims - and now I see it has been bumped down in the budget speech to a lower status. The questions were about where First Nations stand with regard with the completion of land claims in the Yukon, and I was pretty disappointed about the answers I was getting at the time. I don't believe that the government side has been fully updated about what is happening with negotiations.
Now, this being the top priority, I would think that we would get some clear answers from this side of the House so that we can take them back to our constituents and say, "This is the message that's coming down from government, and this is what I have to pass on to you." But I cannot pass any of that message on, because there's no progress report.
Basically what we have to do is not ask the government the questions, but go to the First Nations that are negotiating and ask them. But I believe it's a government responsibility to bring forward to this House updates and progress reports on a number of different fronts, and land claims has just been one of them.
We're supposed to bring certainty to Yukon, and that isn't the number one issue this Liberal government thought the settling outstanding land claims was for. To them, it was because it was key to economic development, and it's sad. I mean, what do I say to the First Nation? That it's key to economic development, or the fact that you have been fighting for this for over 20 years - getting on to 30 years now - to bring self-sufficiency and decision-making down to the First Nation level and control of resources and some land.
It means so much more to First Nations than what I have heard from the Premier.
We have asked questions that we thought, when we were in government, were moving toward diversifying the economy, and not being dependent on the resource industry, as we have been in the past. We have seen the ups - the good times - and the down. It has been a roller-coaster ride for close to 100 years now. We need to break away from that and see if we can diversify and get into some new markets.
One of them, of course, was the film industry. They're not asking for much from this government. They're asking for $1.5 million over five years - $300,000 a year. And again, the message that came back from government is what we have heard from day one when they were elected, and that's crying poverty, there's no money, don't know where the members get the figure of $45 million. Where does that come from? It's their own math. That's what was said by the Liberal Party.
Yet, in this House, they're asking us to debate a budget that they put forward - 2001-02 budget. It clearly states in their long-term plans - the one-pager that's there; there's nothing else other than projected numbers here - what their surpluses are for last year, what the surpluses are for next year and the year after, until 2004-05. These are the government's numbers, not ones picked out of the air. That is what you told us, so we're actually bringing it up again. A $64-million surplus right in there. If you didn't believe the numbers, why would you give them to us in this House and basically to the rest of Yukoners? Why would you do that?
You've included lapses in this. I would strongly recommend, because the ministers do not know the budget and how to read it, that they sit down and get a Finance briefing on the budget, so that we can have clear answers. We cannot have the answers we've had today and cry poverty from day one.
$64 million, with a $15-million lapse, and that's in 2000-01. Well, the $64 million was higher than we all thought on this side of the House. At that time, the Liberal government was saying that there's not going to be $64 million; there's only going to be $14 million. And what could we say on this side of the House but, well, we'll just have to wait for the Auditor General's report in October. So we wait. To our surprise, there was more money in the budget - more money - than we thought.
We thought it was $56.2 million. So we try to help the government out by tabling a budget that would put people to work immediately during the winter; and, of course, it was turned down.
There's also a deficit of $34 million in this fiscal year, and all the time that the Liberal Party was in government in the fall after the sitting, the poverty cry was still there, and the blame game was on: "The NDP spent $34 million. There's no money there." But what do they do? They come forward with a supplementary budget for $37 million, and that was to give all Yukoners an indication of the priorities of the Liberal Party and the Liberal government.
Well, what did that $37 million do? It made government bigger - not much for the rest of Yukoners to look at in the Liberal priorities. It made government bigger.
So that's what we look forward to, I suppose, over the years to come. Projections are that O&M will rise, and we know that's going to happen with an increase in the new collective agreements that are coming forward. But again, there's a cry of no money. There's a cry of no money for 2001 and 2002 budget year.
And here we have the film industry asking government for money - $1.5 million, or $300,000 a year - and it's a cry of poverty here. But, in one month from today, the government will have the block funding that we get from Ottawa, and all the revenues that have been generated up and over $500 million, plus another $45 million in their bank account. That's in their bank account for that year.
And what they are saying with the biggest budget that they brought forward is that they will spend it down too, with a deficit of $24 million. This was not a belief of the Liberal government - to bring in deficit financing - but they changed their mind. And then every year that we see, up to 2003-04, is deficit financing.
I had numerous questions yesterday in regard to the economy, and I know that members on this side of the House have a lot of questions on how this government is going to rebuild the economy - they call it rebuilding the economy.
The first thing they have done is throw out the initiative by the NDP government at the time, about diversifying the economy. That's gone. Well, what do we do? Rely on mining and oil and gas? Well, Yukoners can't wait, even though the Liberal Party is saying that they will turn things around. In the meantime, put your head in your hands and wait for oil and gas. We can't do that. We have opportunities here today, this year, to put people to work.
The film industry could mean big things for Yukon down the road. The acting Tourism minister asked us how we got the numbers - how did we get the numbers, that $1.5 million was going to generate something like $45 million to $50 million in the Yukon? Well, it's from the government's own people, their film commissioner, who brought the numbers down.
So, what is happening? Does the government not know what it is doing internally? Or what it could do and the potential that there is out there?
It is absolutely incredible that the acting Premier would stand up again and say the government is broke and has no money. But, a month from today, it will have in its bank account a $45-million surplus plus, on top of that, lapses, and the estimated lapses are around $15 million. So that bumps it up to $60 million. Plus, because of the lapses, or the unspent money from last year on projects like the Mayo school it's brought forward - another $13 million. So, the $13 million is accounted for, but you cannot say that the government is going to have to cut back in areas, because the money is there.
I urge the Premier and the Liberal government to have a closer look at the film industry. If the Premier brought forward a supplementary budget that would take care of this matter and get people in the Yukon working, we on this side of the House will support that - over the next five years, $300,000. This is not just about a series of films being shot in the Yukon and made in the Yukon. It's about people in the Yukon participating in the films, jobs being created, and trying to move away from the high unemployment rate that we face today. And it's about diversifying the economy. This is only one step in one initiative the members opposite can take.
We have seen no support for other industries by this government in the Yukon, like the forest industry. The forest industry, just a year ago, was employing many, many people in the Yukon, and those who are not working in that industry have left - they're gone, gone from the Yukon. And it's sad to see because, obviously, there are monies being spent in the Yukon, and we know what that formula is when it gets circulated within communities and within the businesses in Whitehorse.
So, anybody who is interested in government finances and government budgets can pick one of these up at the front desk in the foyer of this building, and they can flip through it themselves so that the next time the government comes forward and says, "We have no money for this", just flip through the numbers. They are their numbers, not ours on this side of the House. We didn't put this together. They are government numbers.
It's interesting to even note that the way it's put together is a little bit different from previous governments, in that the estimate revotes are in this budget. They are the gross lapses of $15 million, and there are the estimated revotes from the previous year of $13 million. The lapses and revotes - that means there is at least $2 million somewhere that's either put back into general funds, or where is it, and where is it accounted for in this budget? Because the numbers don't reflect that.
And, being fiscally responsible, we are presented with a budget that has a surplus right down to $6 million.
What happens if Yukon faces an emergency? Do we drop all other programs that we have funded to take care of it? What happens if we're faced with major fires or floods? And we have been faced with this before, and we had to foot the bill as a territorial government, for example, for the fire suppression in Old Crow, and we're still trying to get the money back from the federal government. But what happens if we have to foot the bill for an emergency? Do we go broke? The government doesn't have a penny in the bank? I don't think that's the message that the Liberal government wanted to give, but it's strange to see how the numbers just don't seem to add up. And maybe somebody on that side of the House would go back and get some simpler ways, I suppose, to explain to the general public and the people on this side of the House how this works.
Now, I asked a number of questions in the past day about the seven points that the Liberal government raises as priorities - land claims being one of them, and devolution. I won't go for too long because I know the Member for Klondike would like to say a few words. I know where devolution is at, but I sure have a lot of questions in regard to rebuilding the economy.
Because the focus and the hard work that the department said they are now responsible for - is that a waste or is that gone? And the thinking that is taking place out there right now - even with the communities in wanting to do something new, something different than rely on the resource industry. There are the arts, for example, and wilderness tourism, and maybe looking at new initiatives that are out there over and beyond what has been brought forward to date. Now we have seen some movement and we know that things can happen.
At one time, people didn't think that we had a skilled labour force here in the Yukon that could offer direction and teach people how to build a house. And it's pretty straightforward, we think, that we focus on energy efficiency and so on, but the methods that we use and the efficiency that we have are far superior to elsewhere. So some people in the industry have taken it upon themselves to let the world know that yes, we can do it and we will do it. And it is reflected right now in, for example, Chile, which is a long way from here, where people are building houses - Yukoners building houses in Chile. We have an opportunity to do a lot of exporting from the Yukon, and the Yukon Alaska Log Homes, for example, are doing quite well and could be doing better with some promotion and incentives.
I asked the member opposite about land claims. We talked about health care and the CAT scan. And all I have heard about that has been excuses.
You could say it's a good idea. You could tell the public that it's a good idea, you will look into it and see what comes out of discussions with the Hospital Corporation. That message was not given out to the general public.
We're faced with possibilities of a shortage of nurses and doctors in the communities, and it's not just an issue. It's a real serious issue, and it's happening right today. It's not that it's going to happen months down the road or during the summer. It's happening today in the communities.
The nurses are working long hours. In my own community, I have witnessed that there were close to eight emergencies handled by one nurse, and that's tiring. We don't see a really clear plan for making sure that Yukon has access and has the attraction here to get nurses and doctors to stay here in the Yukon.
We do have and will have that same problem with the teachers, and there's no clear direction coming out of government or being brought forward to make sure that we have adequate teachers here in the Yukon and that they are treated fairly. There's none, nothing coming forward, and I don't know why. Maybe it's because of some negotiations that are taking place now, but it's just now there.
We focus on alcohol and drugs. The Liberal government has brought forward the alcohol and drug secretariat. In their budget speech, it was something big - $2.36 million. It was over $1 million less than what was presented two months earlier.
But it's not that amount. What the Liberal government failed to say is that they're going to take existing programs and people and make the secretariat, and add $250,000 to try to tackle this very serious issue of FAS and FAE, and do some preventative work on that front.
We didn't see any support in the budget for treatment centres, for example, that are presently dealing with communities, like Tatlmain Lake, for example, who have had pretty good success. We didn't see any additional dollars going into that, things that are already in existence, and a lot of hard work has been put in by First Nations and communities in regard to this.
When the whole issue of FAS came up, when the Liberals were in opposition, the one thing that was going to fix it, in their minds, was a major review of the Liquor Act. That's what was said - a major review of the Liquor Act. I don't think there was one person who came forward and said that they wanted to do a review of the Liquor Act. They wanted to address regulations and look at ways of tackling the issue, but this is a Liberal initiative, along with raising taxes - and I don't know why the 25 cents is there.
I guess in brief, in regard to the film industry, I ask the Premier, given the seriousness of this and the potential of producing jobs, is the Liberal government willing to, or thinking of, bringing in a supplementary budget to address the $1.5 million over five years?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm pleased to have an opportunity to rise to address all of the member opposite's points that he has raised.
First of all, I would like to speak to this issue of surplus versus deficit, and revotes and lapses, about which the member opposite has said - I believe his words were, "Why can't you, being the government, make it understandable to the general public so that it can be readily understood." The problem is that, thanks to the behaviour of politicians from a great length of time and the very fact that the accounting measures themselves - the words start to make people's eyes glaze over and they would start to tune out when you start getting into surplus, deficit and debt. People turn it off, because they're tired of hearing it and it doesn't make sense. It doesn't matter how many times we try to put it into everyday household expenditure terms, because, for some reason, accounting is just one of those things that is not appreciated or it doesn't excite the general public. How's that for a method of saying that?
The point is that I would like to restore some of that and try and explain briefly again - if I could for the member opposite - some key points that need to be restated. First of all, there has been no change in the accounting measures. We hear of other governments that do that, and we hear of other governments that have done it. It creates a lack of believability, I suppose. I want to reassure everyone - the member opposite and the public - that there has been no change in the way that funding is accounted for. That being said, the way to describe this is simply to describe how it happens.
Last February, Piers McDonald came into the Legislature and tabled a budget.
At that time, the then Minister of Finance said, "In brief, Mr. Speaker, the main estimates for 2000-01 call for a total expenditure of $508.7 million, including a contingency of $5.9 million against revenues of $481.1 million. An estimated operating deficit for the year of $27.6 million will leave an accumulated surplus, or savings account, of $13.7 million before lapses at March 31, 2001." That was the then Minister of Finance coming into the Legislature and tabling what is, in effect, this year's budget.
Now, there are two points that have to be remembered about that. First of all, it was a deficit budget, and we were spending more than we were taking in and also that that was the correct figure at the time and the best information that was available. It's incumbent upon the Finance minister to come in and present the best information that was available, and that's what the then Finance minister did. I've done the same thing - stood on my feet in the House and delivered my budget speech and explained that we were, once again, spending more money than what we received. Against revenues of $500 million plus, we are spending more than what we're taking in, with a deficit of $24 million. We're spending $24 million. Now, every Yukoner knows that, with the Taxpayer Protection Act, we can't go into debt. Logically, then, we're spending down the savings account.
Now, what becomes an argument in this House is how big is the savings account. In our estimate, the best information is, before lapses and revotes - there's that discussion coming again - it's $6 million. We've spent that savings account down, with this budget, to $6 million.
Now, the revotes and the lapses are essentially those programs or those projects that we have not spent all the money we budgeted for.
For example, last year we budgeted a million dollars to be spent on preparation, discussion and design work for a new jail. It may be that that comes in underbudget if we don't quite spend that money. Now, we can revote that money to continue with that project, which is logical. Or, if we made a decision not to continue, then the money lapses, and that is where the year-end surplus, or the savings account, goes back up, in that the money not spent that is budgeted for, goes back into the surplus. So that is how we end up with, in our long-terms plans, stating a surplus projected. That counts on us not spending all the money that we budgeted for in revotes, and it counts on lapsed funding.
So that is why we are concerned that we have spent the surplus, that the estimated accumulated surplus is down to $6 million. We are monitoring the territory's finances very, very closely, and we are examining what government is doing. We are not cutting programs. We have continued to deliver good programs to the Yukon public. Where programs needed to be reviewed and we needed to have a good hard look at how we were spending, like the community development fund that spent $16,237,000 - and that is money that is not spent on roads, not spent on programming in schools, not spent on maintaining health care, not spent on a variety of other services that governments provide. That is in excess of $16 million. We looked at that and said, "How was this money spent, and how could it be spent in a more accountable manner to the Yukon public, and in a manner that is fair to everyone?"
This is so that when people apply for funding, they know that their application form just says what they are applying for and doesn't ask for any political allegiance, and so it's fair to all those hard-working volunteers who have filled out an application. They know that their application form is being fairly judged. And it doesn't put public servants in the awkward position of their decisions being overridden by politicians.
We put $1.5 million into that because we also recognize that this is a type of access to their money that Yukon taxpayers in Yukon communities wanted - to be able to apply for funding to host, for example, the seniors games or something. It's a people fund, where they're looking to government for assistance. The fund also asks for volunteer equity, which is a new feature and one we're very pleased to have put in.
So, I'm not trying to trivialize or to make light of or to appear like I'm lecturing the member opposite or any of those things. I'm trying to explain as forthrightly as I can this surplus versus revotes and deficit, and what the deficit figure is, and what the surplus at the end of the year is projected to be. I was trying to explain that as best I could, and I hope the member has appreciated that that was an open and accountable attempt and has not found something to be offended by, in any way, the words I have chosen.
The member also talked about rebuilding the Yukon economy and our seven key points in our platform. I was reminded that there was a quote - and I believe it was during the Berger inquiry - that was attributed to a Canadian politician. It said that Canada is a difficult country; it's like a plant. We are continually ripping it up by the roots to see if it's still growing. That's true of our seven points as well. We have had 10 months in office. I feel we're making progress on those seven points. For example, on one of them - rebuilding the Yukon economy - we're starting to see results reflected in the latest Statistics Canada report. We're seeing an almost doubling of projected increase in investment in resource industries. We're seeing a projected increase in housing and capital infrastructure. So, we're starting to see results.
I can't stand on my feet and point to XYZ that's here right now. We've only been here 10 months. In that short time, we're starting to see results, but let's let the plant grow a little. Let's give us an opportunity to put some of these things into effect.
The Member for Watson Lake suggests it's a load of bunk. Well, give us a fair chance, is all we're asking for. We've presented a budget; we'll be pleased to debate the program line items; we have accounted for these figures as openly and accountably as we can. We're prepared to discuss them.
With respect to the Call of the Wild proposal, there are a number of points that have not come out in either Question Period today or in the member opposite's position on this. First of all, the request asked for the entire film incentive fund in one shot, and the member opposite says, "So what?" Well, that is kind of saying to the film incentive fund that evaluates projects, "You're going to fund this one from the ministerial direction." That might be the way the NDP do business, but it's not the way we do business.
We evaluate all proposals fairly. We have chosen to evaluate all proposals fairly, as I'm sure the Northwest Territories did when they were invited to pay several million dollars for this, as I'm sure the British Columbia government did, when they were asked to pay several million dollars for this.
The member opposite compares us with British Columbia, and says that we should examine this - look at what B.C. has done. Well, if we were to contribute on the same per capita basis that British Columbia does, we would be contributing over $400 million, and we can't do that.
The other point the members opposite have to remember is that this would be the entire Project Yukon fund for one year, on one proposal.
That's a hefty expenditure by government and it deserves a fair and thorough examination. We're hearing big numbers from the members opposite - a return of $40 million to $50 million. Well, that's not what the proponents of the project said to us. I have, as the caucus and Cabinet have, examined this and looked at it. We are very much in support of the film industry. There is a film incentive fund.
As the member who is acting for the Minister of Tourism has also noted, we have not slammed the door, but placing $1.5 million in one project is beyond the financial scope of this government at this point in time. It's a lot of eggs in only one basket. We are very concerned that we have a business proposal that is judged on its business merits. We have asked them to come back. The acting Minister of Tourism has already indicated that. We haven't slammed the door. We have said, "Come back to us with another proposal, because that $1.5 million is too rich for the film incentive fund." It's more than what the film incentive has in it.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Member for Watson Lake is suggesting that this government politically interferes. I have said repeatedly that that is not the case. It is precisely why the Project Yukon advisory committee is structured the way it is and why we are continually stating a number of points to the Yukon public. We will do what we say we will do. We will be fair, open and accountable. There is one set of rules for everyone. That's what it's about and that's what we're trying to provide.
I would be pleased to answer any further questions on the budget.
Mr. Fentie: I'd like to follow up with the Premier regarding the community development fund. As she just stated, they have changed the review committee and so on and so forth. Project Yukon is going to be handled completely differently. That is incorrect, because the Premier also made the claim through the public media that it's still Cabinet, the elected officials, that make the decisions. So nothing has changed but this: the Premier has gutted the community development fund program because it was the former NDP government's program and the Liberals will have none of that. They've taken 50 percent of the funds out of it, and that means they've cut the benefits to Yukoners by 50 percent. Where has that money gone? Into making government bigger. Those are the facts. So let's stop playing games here, and let's get to the bottom of the issues.
The community development fund wasn't politically interfered with. It was by this government, by shutting it down. That audit, quite frankly, was skewed by the members opposite. We didn't just fall out of a turnip truck. That audit was a foregone conclusion. It was the Premier who said, when we were in government, it was a political slush fund, but it's the same Premier who stood on the floor of this Legislature and demanded that the then Minister of Econcomic Development interfere to make sure that her pet project in her riding got funded. Now, in subsequent rounds of community development fund reviews when her pet project did get funded, I didn't hear any screaming of political interference. I didn't hear that about the half a million dollars that went into the Member for Faro's riding. I didn't hear "political interference" when $300,000 went to Whitehorse broomball when the Member for Riverside lobbied hard and long for that money. That wasn't political interference. This is all about the Liberals trying to dismantle everything the former government had done, and it includes the community development fund; it includes diversifying the economy and it includes forestry.
Now, this Premier talks about business case. Let's look at some business case.
A $2-million request came in to the immigrant investor fund - not taxpayers' money, but immigrant investment money - for South Yukon Forest Corporation project in Watson Lake. It was employing 125 people, injecting $55,000 a day into the economy. This government, upon taking office, wanted to delay the access to timber, which they did; we know that. So the company simply said, "All right, if you want to take more time to make sure it's right, then the onus is on the government then to step in and help, but the industry has to wait." It makes sense. The immigrant investor fund is there for exactly that - to invest in the economy of this territory. Instead, $55,000 a day is gone and 125 jobs are gone. And that is what we are facing here today.
Now let's look at the community development fund. Under the NDP, it created 2,003 jobs until September 1999; that, by the way, is an audit. It also created 14,400 weeks of work for Yukoners; that's another audit. Those are results, real results.
So this Premier is trying to say that we politically interfered by diversifying the economy, by helping Yukoners out through the community development fund, by helping Yukoners - like Yukon Brewing Company, through the trade and investment fund, which this Premier has also gutted and thrown away, to expand their markets, creating more jobs and benefits for Yukoners.
And now, we are dealing with the film industry. The former government saw the merits in the fledgling film industry in this territory and was ready, willing and able to assist it. So, a request comes forward - a $1.5 million request - for a possible return of $45 million to $50 million. Those are not our numbers; those are from the government's own film commission. So who is zooming whom here?
This Premier and this government can make all the claims they want about 10 months in office and they're seeing things turn around. Well, let me point out that the statistics that she speaks of are the result from trends that started under the former government, not in the 10 months since this government has taken office. Under this government, the statistics show a dramatic increase in unemployment, a dramatic increase in people leaving this territory, a dramatic downturn in cashflow in this territory.
So, come on, let's not you-know-what the troops. Let's get serious here. We have a major-league problem in this territory. It's under this government's watch, and they are doing diddly-squat about it, and it's high time they got it right.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, once again, the Member for Watson Lake has led with his chin, insulting Yukoners. There are hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who applied to the community development fund for three years under that government. They were not treated fairly and, when we proved it to the member opposite, with an audit - there was a representative sample taken of community development fund funds - there was ministerial, political interference in that fund, and that is not fair. And it's about being fair. It is absolutely about being fair.
The member opposite not only does not believe the audit, but insults the professional integrity of the professional public servant who conducted it, and that is even worse than unfair. That is for shame.
And the member closes his arguments on the community development fund by suggesting that, as a volunteer, the Member for Riverside, in filling out an application, was somehow wrong when he applied to the fund, like everybody else, expecting fair treatment.
Why is it that the member chooses to insult members? He can't even - thank goodness we're doing an electoral boundary review, because maybe the Member for Watson Lake and the media will get it right as to what's in Porter Creek North and what's in Porter Creek South.
I asked the then Minister of Economic Development on the floor of this House about projects because I sensed then that there was a problem, and I have seen it. It wasn't just I who asked. So did other people. Again, I will say to the members opposite that they don't want to believe us and they don't want to believe the auditor. Well, look at the project resumés. Look at the recommendations and the comments.
Generally, infrastructure projects that are the responsibility of other government departments are not eligible under CDF, but lo and behold, this one got funded. How does the former minister and how does the member answer to all the other Yukoners who were told there was no money?
Projects were not treated fairly. Of Yukon taxpayers' money, $16.2 million was spent. It has to be accounted for. And I would remind the member opposite that that $16 million is money that's not being spent on textbooks, on supplies for hospitals throughout the territory, on people, on social assistance, or on buying equipment for our facilities.
The member opposite likes to suggest that we're dismantling every NDP program. What we're trying to do is provide fair, open and accountable government to Yukoners. We have done that in the 10 months that we have been in office and we will continue to do that.
Mr. Chair, I'd also like to comment on the South Yukon
Forest Corporation issue and I would like to invite the member opposite to respond to the hundreds of Yukoners who respected the fact that we examined the business case and it was not there; that we treated South Yukon Forest Corporation just as we would every other business that came in. We treated them fairly.
The business case was not there. No matter how much the member opposite likes to defend their actions, I know that the audit report speaks for itself, and so does the evidence. Under the NDP, 3,000 people left this territory. We are not going to bring them all back in 10 months. We're not going to solve all of the problems that we have inherited. We are going to continue to pay for the expensive obligations we were left with. We're going to do things. We're going to deliver good programs, we're going to be fair to people, and we're going to live within our means.
Now, the member opposite has some idea that he absolutely refuses to believe the audit report. He wants to talk about the CDF. Project Yukon is in the Economic Development department. I would be more than happy to outline for the member opposite exactly how that program will account to Yukoners for the money and how it will be fairly administered. I have given my personal commitment in the media and, on the floor of this House, I will give the commitment on behalf of every person on this side that there will be no political interference.
We are required by law to sign off under the Financial Administration Act, but we are not going to be overriding advice and instructing officials when they haven't even had a chance to look at an application and say, "Yes, that one gets funding." That's not the way we work. We take the advice of Yukon's professional public service. We work with them. What's more, we have invited a member of the public to be part of that review, as well, just to ensure that there is that public input and advice. We focus on clear criteria, because political interference isn't the only criticism of the community development fund.
There was a lack of clear objectives, a lack of clear criteria. What was the mandate? Project Yukon has specific project criteria. It focuses on people, community spaces, and structures. It focuses on the people of the Yukon, and we will deliver that program for them fairly.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, let's look at this again, because the Premier and Cabinet, no matter what, are still responsible for one thin dime of expenditure in Project Yukon, or $1.5 million of expenditure. It's still the Cabinet that makes the decision. Nothing has changed. You can repackage it all you want in terms of criteria and all the rest of it. Ultimately, the decision is made by Cabinet, the elected people. If this member and this Premier is saying to this side of the House and to the Yukon public that we want to ensure there's no political interference, then why didn't they, as the Member for Riverdale South wanted, enshrine it in legislation? Well, they didn't because they wanted to ensure that they get what they desire out of the Project Yukon fund. And the reason they're doing it is because they had a resounding plea from the public to keep the community development fund alive and keep it going. That's the audit. The public wanted this thing to keep going, because the need was there; it fulfilled the need for Yukon people. It did provide for infrastructure; it did provide for healing in First Nation communities. It did provide for all kinds of projects that Yukoners themselves brought forward, and, more importantly, it provided jobs and benefits and lifted community spirits. What Project Yukon really has done is to cut it in half. There are already more projects sitting in the hopper than the total dollar value that Project Yukon has in its budget.
How are the Premier and her Cabinet going to handle that little problem? The uptake is massive. The reason that the uptake is massive is because we are in a very difficult economic situation.
Now, the Premier is making claims that they are going to do a lot of things here. And the one thing that the Premier is right about is that they still have two and a half to three years in their mandate. However, they haven't started out in a manner that gives Yukoners any indication that they are going to deliver on what they have committed to deliver. Furthermore, I don't really think, from the evidence to date, in 10 months, that the Liberals - the government - have any idea of what to do about the economy. They have no vision. There is no plan. From throne speech to supplementary budget to this budget, we have yet to see the road map of how this government intends to rebuild the economy. It's not here. And when we look in their budget - their very own budget speech - to their long-term plans, it's a blank page. There is nothing in there. That's what we want to find out. How are you going to do it? Now, we are pointing out examples of where this government could have done a great deal in our economy. Now, the Premier talks about business case, and let's use the example in the forest sector, again. Without stability of fibre - timber - there is no business case - not in a thousand years will there be a business case in a sawmill if there is no timber. No timber, no mill, no jobs, no benefit. I don't think the Premier even knows what a business case looks like.
Numbers don't lie. If a film industry comes to this territory and, with a $1.5-million investment, can produce $45 million to $50 million in return, that looks to me like a pretty positive business case. I think the real problem here is - and it's not poverty, no matter what the Liberals may claim. They have lots of money in the bank. They're making choices on where to spend it, and their first choice and priority will be to their friends. That's what Liberals do. We know that; we've experienced that through federal spending for decades. We know all about Liberals and how they spend money. They invented pork-barreling, and Yukoners aren't that gullible. They know all that.
This government isn't doing anything because I don't think it has a plan or a vision of any sort; therefore, it's very, very timid when it comes to making decisions, because it's not sure. Should we, shouldn't we? I don't know what to do here. Maybe the best thing to do is fight with all the groups in the public. Fight with the arts community; fight with the forest industry, fight with the teachers. They're not making any decisions here.
Furthermore, all they've done is follow through with the previous government's programming. Capital expenditures in this budget are, for the most part, from the former government and its long-term plan. All the Premier and her government have done is try to re-jig it, re-package it, put a Liberal dressing on it, and call it theirs. That's another thing Liberals do - leading from behind is what Liberals do. Capturing and attaching themselves to other people's agendas is what Liberals do. They've yet to prove to anybody here that they are delivering on anything.
And we do have a problem; I'll agree with the Premier. There is a problem here, and it's the government. The government of the day is becoming a major problem. They're not part of the solution.
This community development fund and the accusations coming from that side of the House are pretty stiff accusations, and they're incorrect. They're incorrect. Go ahead. The Premier can table this audit a thousand times. Nothing is going to change the fact that the community development fund delivered benefits to Yukoners and that Cabinet made the final decision. It's no different from what this Project Yukon is going to do. Cabinet will make the final decision. Nothing has changed. She has added one person to her review committee. So, ultimately, spending the money is done by the Liberal Cabinet. Nothing has changed at all, except that we have 50 percent less money in the fund. That means 50 percent less projects, 50 percent less benefit, and the list goes on and on and on.
The Premier stated in her speech that we want to broaden our borders, to broaden our horizons, to expand beyond. And yet it's the same Premier and the same Liberal government that got rid of the trade and investment fund. So, are we going to wait another year now while the Liberals sit in their think-tank upstairs, wondering what it is they should do to decide how Yukon companies and Yukon businesses and Yukon people can market outside this territory, expand their businesses, expand their horizons, creating jobs and benefits for Yukoners? Are we to wait again? I don't understand the thinking, Mr. Chair.
What is going on upstairs in that Cabinet room? Why would we stop? Let me try and put it into a simple example: if, in our education system, we decided that, in the curriculum, math was simply not delivering what it should to our students, would we take our math out of our curriculum and throw it away and stop teaching it until we invented a new one? No, we would continue to teach as changes came forward. We, on this side, don't dispute the members opposite trying to improve on things or come in with better programming, but they haven't. And that is one of the fundamental arguments, Mr. Chair. In all this time - 10 months - in all of their political interference in the community development fund and trade and investment fund and tourism marketing fund, and everything else that you can imagine, we haven't got any results. Nothing has been improved. In fact, it has become worse. So how can the Premier stand there on her feet in this House and make the claim that the audit that she had directed - and her own department set out the objectives for the audit - is somehow going to explain why, all winter long, Yukoners literally starved, especially out in the rural communities, when they could have had work. Fire smart alone, which this audit, by the way - if you want to use the audit as a good source of reference - said that the fire smart program was a golden program, an excellent program. The decision-making process for fire smart was the same decision-making process for the community development fund. Yet, this government claims that it was okay. It was the very same decision-making process.
So all these people who could have worked this winter with funding from the community development fund and fire smart didn't; they didn't work. And for this audit - so this Premier could stand on her feet in this Legislature and accuse the former government of political interference - she did that on the backs of all those Yukoners who didn't work this year. That's what I call political interference. And trying to find a way, in this audit, to discredit a former government and its programs that were delivering benefits to Yukoners and doing what the government does here today is really political interference. That is a sad state of affairs for this territory.
Furthermore, when we look at the Liberals' budget and how they are trying to project the figures, it's very evident that budgeting is a little foreign to the Liberal government. So now it comes to mind, how can this Liberal government make the claim that they will be fiscally responsible when they're having problems grasping budgeting?
Furthermore, by their own admission, their own figures, we had, as of the fiscal year-end March 2001, $45 million in surplus. The Premier, the Minister of Finance, has just stated that that surplus by the end of fiscal year March 2002 will only be $6 million. That's what was just stated on the floor of this Legislature - some $6 million for a surplus. Are Yukoners to understand, then, that this Liberal government has taken a $45-million surplus and spent it down so there's only $6 million left? They haven't created anything, other than making government bigger. Is that what the people of the Yukon are to take from this Liberal government, that we spent down that surplus for what we've got in return?
Can the Premier answer if that is the case?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Premier can answer a lot of things. The Premier also understands the principles of fairness, integrity and openness.
The member opposite has talked about the audit report being really good in this part, but not in this part. Once again, he questions the professional ethics of individuals. This was not tabled lightly. It was not undertaken lightly. The facts speak for themselves. I will quote from the community development fund review part of a project: "This application was turned down for funding at both the March 5, 1999, and the community development fund board meetings. Since that time, the program coordinator received direction to approach the society and ask if they would accept a minimum contribution." Another project: "At each deadline, projects are reviewed and ranked in comparison with one another, according to program priorities. Fast tracking the project gives the applicants an unfair advantage, as their proposal is not subjected to a ranking system, where they may well have ranked as high as other applicants."
"The start date on the project is shown as July. It has been the practice to date to consider components of a project occurring prior to approval as a precommitment and not eligible for funding. Without this project being subject to the normal reviewing process, the project officer is not prepared to make a recommendation. The application was approved by the minister."
"In April, the MLA advised that a community development fund contribution would be made available for this project. The request has been committed by the MLA and a recommendation of the project officer is not required."
"Generally, infrastructure, that are the responsibility of other government departments, are not eligible under community development fund." This one made it.
This particular project says, "Recommendation: The project officer defers a recommendation to the CDF board, considering the political ramifications and issues and concerns outlined above. It is suggested that the ceiling be adhered to, should funding be approved." Neither the ceiling nor the project officer's recommendations were accepted in that case, outlining a number of problems with the project.
There was a representative sample of community development fund projects. And it's not me to whom the member has to answer; it's the Yukon public. It's Yukoners who submitted their projects: volunteers who work very hard on their projects, who submitted them, believing that they would be judged and assessed fairly, and not that an MLA would come in with their sticky fingers, not that an MLA would come in and interfere with the process. And that's exactly what happened, and that's what has to be accounted to for the public.
What also has to be accounted for is that $16.2 million - which was not spent in our schools, not spent on our road infrastructure, not spent at the hospitals throughout the territory, not spent on job creation that the member likes to talk about - was spent on the community development fund, and it has to be accounted for to the public. That's what we're doing.
Now, the member wants to go on and on and on about this, insisting on defending that whatever they did was right, that these were just tough decisions that had to be made. There's a signature that's attached to these projects, and there's a professional recommendation that's submitted, and the issue that I have - an issue that every other Yukoner has - is that that professional recommendation was ignored, and that's an issue.
My signature is mine, and I hold it as very important. When I attach my signature to something, I want it to be right, and it shows that I've read the document, that I know what it's saying.
I know that, as Minister of Economic Development - as the financial administration requires me to do to sign something - I will be following the recommendations of the professional people we ask to administer these programs fairly. When I attach my signature to these budget documents, I know that this government has done a good job, and I know that we're going to see results for it.
The member says that there's nothing Liberal in this budget. Well, let me tell the member that the funding for Catholic school expansions required under grade reorganization, totally ignored by the previous government, is a Liberal stamp on this budget. I can tell the member opposite that recognizing a fairly negotiated wage contract settlement with YEU and making sure the money is in here for it is part of the Liberal stamp as well. And I can tell the member opposite that making sure $2.9 million is there to make our roads safe is a Liberal stamp. Finally dealing with highway funding is a Liberal stamp. Putting more money into tourism, which is shown as an economic generator in this territory, is a Liberal stamp.
We are very proud of the work we did as a caucus with the people of Yukon.
The member wants to know what's in here for communities. Again, I go back, listen to the budget speech, re-read the budget speech. We have recognized a key priority of communities in this budget and we said to them, "Look, we can't fund absolutely everything on your wish list. What is your top priority?" The community fairly answered us. Many times I have used the example of Destruction Bay saying, "Make sure you maintain health care funding and, if you can't do anything else, we understand that." We could find the additional money to complete the work on the marina. We did that because we're Liberals, because we listen, because we gave the same, fair message to every community all throughout the Yukon at every single meeting.
We all work from the same page because that's the kind of party we are. We're fair; we're open and we're accountable, and I will gladly debate any line item in this budget. If the member wants to insist upon defending previous government actions, we'll keep talking about it. It's not what Yukoners ask either of us to do here. They asked us to debate the lines in the budget and that's what we're prepared to do, although if the member wants to go on and on about the audit report, the facts speak for themselves and the facts speak a lot louder than either he or I can.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I am glad that the Premier wants to discuss facts. First off, the Premier well knows that the official opposition stood on the floor of this Legislature and openly admitted that we believe that there are many good expenditures in the budget. We are questioning things that the members opposite have brought up. First off, we are questioning the seven-point contract with the Yukon public and how you are going to do it, because the budget simply does not show the way.
Now let me go back for one more brief moment to the community development fund. The Premier has just implied that $16 million of expenditure in the community development fund did not contribute to job creation in the territory. That's what the Premier has just stated on the floor of this Legislature. So I will point out some facts. It did create jobs - 2,003 of them, for 14,400 weeks, in this territory. Secondly, the Premier keeps going to her audit. The audit is her safety blanket. And let me point out something in the audit that needs to be audited. It makes the claim that on a cost overrun for a certain project, there was political interference. The fact is that there wasn't. The technical review committee itself recommended a $33,000 cost overrun because the project was so good and created so many jobs and benefits for Yukoners. So, I think the Premier should audit her audit and get the facts straight. Furthermore, we can stand here and talk all day about what, in 10 months, this Liberal government has done, and again, the facts speak for themselves. When it comes to our economy, we are at 14-plus percent unemployment - much higher than we were at this time last year. When we look at health care, we hear a lot of dialogue but very little delivery.
We understand that expenditures in health care with the trajectory of ever-increasing health care costs are difficult to manage and to balance, but there were commitments made by Liberals during an election campaign that didn't materialize in the budget. People make promises during a campaign; they should be accountable for them. There are no monies here for what the Liberal candidate in Watson Lake made claim to - an extended care facility, an enhanced delivery of services to seniors in that community. And the same holds true in Haines Junction. Those are the types of things we are talking about, Mr. Chair.
Furthermore, look at what this Liberal government did when it came to the Mayo school. They were totally unable to manage that situation, so here we have a winter where none of those people went to work. And for what reason? Because of the Liberal government's inability to take a situation and manage it accordingly. Making decisions is what government is elected to do, and, unfortunately, in the 10 months that this Liberal government has been in office, most of the decisions that they have managed to make haven't necessarily been the right decision.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Minister of Renewable Resources, Education and the Public Service Commission has just stated "in my opinion." It's not my opinion; it's Yukoners' opinion. Now, I don't know whom the members opposite talked to.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: I think the Member for Ross River is right - each other.
But again, the Premier talks about Yukoners. Yukoners are who cried out for the community development fund. Yukoners cried out for the fire smart fund. Yukoners cried out to this Premier upon taking office, "Make sure that the New Democratic budget is followed through on."
Those are Yukoners speaking out. Those are the Yukoners we are talking to. The situation is fairly grim.
I also stood on my feet in this Legislature and openly admitted that it's not all the members opposite's fault. We understand that in the official opposition. When it comes to our economy and the devastation we are experiencing in our economy, we, in the official opposition, in a constructive, open, accountable and intended-to-be-productive manner, have made a request. Let the three political parties in this House get together on this issue and collectively put our brains and our efforts toward some solutions.
Making claims like the Premier has made -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: The Premier has just made a comment about showing up for SCREP. Can the Premier stand on her feet and explain to this House what the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges has to do with the economic situation this territory faces? Will she explain that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, I will be glad to. The member opposite continually stands on his feet and says that they've offered to get together. But when we ask the members of the opposition to deliver on that promise and attend the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, a duly-appointed committee of the House, or when we ask them to participate in all-party committee appointments - something I lobbied long and hard for as a member in opposition - they won't show up.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we have invited the members of the opposition to attend and participate on issues with us and they have declined. So, the Member for Watson Lake standing and saying that we don't accept their offers - well, Mr. Chair, it gets to the point of being highly ridiculous. What we are trying to do here is debate a budget.
While I'm on my feet, the member opposite also goes on about the number of jobs created by the CDF. I would ask him to visit page 7 of the audit report where it says that it's not possible to measure the impacts of the community development fund upon the social and economic vitality of the Yukon.
Some economic impacts were measured by Economic Development, such as weeks of employment created. While these are related impacts, the stated goal of the program was not specifically to create employment. If the objective of the community development fund was to create employment, which would have been a more specific goal, then perhaps the selection of projects to receive funding would have resulted in a more efficient use of the funds.
Mr. Fentie: First, let me deal with the Premier's last comments on the audit, and the fact that she makes the claim that it wasn't possible to measure the benefits or jobs created for Yukoners. I will just end that comment by saying this: the Premier then must answer why Yukoners across this territory made a resounding plea to this government to continue with the community development fund and fire smart. I rest my case.
Now, let's go back to SCREP, and the claim the Premier has made that we were invited to SCREP and we refused to participate. First off, the Premier's incorrect. We weren't invited to SCREP at all, but members on this side of the House were appointed to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. We went to meetings, and we set further meeting dates, including agenda items for those meetings and those subsequent dates. Lo and behold, in this Legislature, comes forward a motion to change the rules of this Legislature, and that motion dealt with agenda items on the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges agenda for subsequent meetings.
How can we trust this government to accept any meaningful input from this side of the House when they, in a heavy-handed manner, bring forward a motion and use their majority to hammer through changes in the proceedings of this Legislature?
They completely circumvented the committee and made it a moot, useless committee, so we, in the official opposition, resigned. Why would we go there? Mr. Chair, the Premier has got it wrong.
Furthermore, let's take it back to what the question was that I had asked the Premier. What does this committee have to do with our economy and the state that we are in? Now, let's go to the Premier's comment about her invitation for all-party participation in appointing members to boards and committees. All right, that's a sensible request, we thought. And then one of the most important things happening in this territory today, the review of the Education Act - instead of this all-party committee getting together and appointing a chair for that review, the Liberals throw out a pork chop to one of their Liberal friends.
Now, how does the Premier expect this side of the House to even want to act cooperatively with the type of actions that the members opposite are providing us and showing us? So, therefore, why would the opposition participate?
Now, we have made a request, because of the crisis we are in economically and because the Liberal government of the day is simply unable to manage the situation. They have come forward with absolutely zero in addressing it. People are leaving. There is a parade of people leaving this territory. Unemployment is rising. We have made an offer, so that politically, all the parties, in a manner that addresses a very serious situation, can come forward with some solution. There are no political boundaries out there in this crisis. This affects every single Yukoner and the Premier has not even responded to that request.
Mr. Chair, we are going to be at this budget for quite some time. First off, I want to make the point that the contract with the Yukon people that this Premier has staked their future on is a key element in this budget, and the delivery on that contract - we, in the official opposition and in the third party, have the duty to hold the members opposite accountable when it comes to that contract, and we intend to do that. The Premier has to understand that that is our job, and it would really help the situation, and Yukoners in general if, when we try in a constructive manner to do our job, to ask questions and offer suggestions, that the members opposite reciprocate. That's all we're saying.
We can dance around issues and accuse each other of all kinds of wonderful things; however, that doesn't change the fact that we have a duty to the Yukon public. The members opposite, as government, aren't delivering and we, in the opposition, want to hold them accountable for that fact.
Now, I want to ask the Premier a specific question. The claim is made in this budget, when it comes to the economy, that 700 full-time jobs will be sustained by this budget's expenditure. If that is the case, can the Premier then explain, out of those 700 jobs, how many are in the highway sector - road building?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, trust and respect and accountability to the public are like the telephone; they work both ways. And I appreciate his respectful question on the budget. With regard to the 700 jobs, there is a document that I don't have in front of me at this point in time, but it indicates specifically how many jobs are created in each sector and by specific projects.
For example, the $2.9 million on the road construction from Whitehorse to Haines Junction is 19.14 jobs; the arts fund is 11. If the member would bear with me, I can have that document sent for if he wishes, or I can provide him an answer in writing.
Mr. Fentie: No, that's not necessary, because I'm trying to make a point here, Mr. Chair. It's all about trust in government. The claim has been made that this somehow will sustain 700 full-time jobs. The point of my asking that question is this: road-building jobs are not full-time jobs; they're seasonal jobs. They were historically year-in, year-out jobs, created by government spending money on highways. The Alaska Highway has been upgraded year in, year out. So it's almost complete to date. What we're getting to here is the Premier's claim on behalf of her government that their budget will sustain 700 full-time jobs, and that simply isn't the case.
Now, let's look at it this way: how many of those 700 jobs to which the Premier has made claim are actually new jobs with regard to this government's contract with the Yukon people to rebuild the economy? How many of the 700 are new and actually go toward rebuilding the economy?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, the jobs are listed in the public service commission term of full-time equivalents. So, with regard to the highway spending, the member opposite suggests that these are seasonal jobs. There is also work that is undertaken in the winter. For example, with regard to some of the brushing work, previously, the budget amount was $500,000. It has been increased by $120,000 to $620,000. The expenditure of $2.9 million in that specific highway project I spoke of will generate jobs. Those are not jobs that were slated to be there this summer. It's not just highway work that goes on every single year.
Under previous governments, we have seen the spending on highway infrastructure, excluding Shakwak, go down to where it was less than $4 million in the last year of the NDP. That's excluding the Shakwak money. And that is not going to sustain the highway infrastructure that's the envy of the north. Nunavut Premier Okalik would love to have the highway system we have. He'd like even one kilometre of BST road.
The Northwest Territories is desperate for the bridges that we have, and our bridges are in need of repair. That point has been made over and over again.
The member asked how much of this is new work. Well, those two particular items that I've outlined are new work, in that they were not put forward previously by the government. Other governments have brushed and cleared those corners, but they've never said, "Yes, here's the money. Let's get them done."
That is work that the infrastructure builders are pleased to see. It was a direct recommendation from them. It was also a direct recommendation from both the infrastructure builders and organized labour, that the long-term capital plan in the capital budget be tabled in the fall. So the members like to make much of the fact that there is not a long-term capital plan in this budget document that is picked up by the general public, because the last line in the budget document indicates that we followed the advice of Yukoners and moved the long-term capital plan to the fall.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I can see that it is pointless to try to get through to the Premier on the fact that government expenditures on our highways do not necessarily equate to rebuilding the economy. Now, the Premier has also stated that our roads are deteriorating. Well, which roads are those? The Alaska Highway is one of the best highways that you can possibly drive on. So which roads is the Premier claiming are deteriorating?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have to challenge the member opposite to mention to Golden Hill and Pelly Construction and Skookum Asphalt that their work isn't valuable and that their employment of people isn't part of our economy, that Yukoners working on road construction is part of our economy. And, yes, the Alaska Highway is, for the most part, in very good shape. But it's also the point that Whitehorse to Haines Junction has some of the most dangerous corners in it, corners that we have been trying to repair for years. The point is that we have put the money in the budget to do that.
We have put the money into the budget on other specific roads. If the member wants to get into a specific road-by-road discussion, I invite him to advance us into the Community and Transportation Services debate.
Mr. Fentie: The Premier mentioned Pelly Construction and Golden Hill Ventures. They have been moving dirt in this territory for decades. Every year, Golden Hill Ventures has been working on the highway. I'm talking about rebuilding an economy. The Premier is talking about an economy that was already there.
Secondly, let's look at the Robert Campbell Highway. Somehow the Premier is making the claim that they have dramatically increased spending on highways. Well, they have put less money in capital on the Robert Campbell Highway than the former government was doing. So how does that add up?
But I'm going to move on here, Mr. Chair, because there are other people obviously who would like to get into the debate. As the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has also aptly pointed out, they decided to cancel the Tagish Highway - little wonder; it's not a Liberal riding.
Let me wrap up by just saying that it would be interesting getting into this, department by department, line by line. This is the biggest budget ever tabled in this territory - some $535 million. It does little to rebuild our economy. It does somewhat contribute to maintaining quality health care, but it doesn't do much to solve the major problem of recruiting and retaining professional caregivers, and that's our biggest problem.
The so-called addressing drug and alcohol with the secretariat is another example of making government bigger. Out of the $2.36 million budgeted in this budget for that program, only approximately $200,000-plus is new money.
When it comes to settling outstanding land claims, the Premier seems to have very little knowledge of the land claims secretariat. So how does this budget reflect that commitment?
Achieving devolution - well, that has been another issue that has gone on in this territory for over a decade. The arrangement for devolution, for the most part, was completed. A commitment was made by Minister Nault to have it passed in the House of Commons by April 2001. Under this government, now we have another year's delay - April 2002. On developing infrastructure, with the minute amount that they have increased capital spending by, one could make the claim that they are developing some infrastructure.
And now we get to a real jewel: restoring confidence in government. To date, in 10 months, there is little to indicate that the Liberals, the members opposite, are doing anything with regard to restoring confidence in government. It's quite the contrary. They are driving people away. People don't have any confidence in this government - none whatsoever. And I believe that, in time, hopefully, the members opposite will see that and try to rectify that situation, because we all are suffering under this Liberal government's inability to manage the situations.
I'm going to hand this over to one of my colleagues or the Member for Klondike, but I will be looking forward with great anticipation to further debate on this budget, to ferret out what the ministers sponsoring this budget really know about their departments and the budget itself, and to ferret out answers about what it is that this Liberal government intends to do about the crisis situation in our economy, the problems in our health care, and a number of other so-called contracts with the Yukon public.
Mr. McRobb: I'd like to take this opportunity to put a few comments on record in response to the discussion this afternoon.
First of all, it's quite evident to anyone listening to the debate that the Liberal government prefers to refight the last election and finger-point, rather than demonstrate leadership in building for the future.
Now, I'd like to also point out that we have tried to work cooperatively with this government on several occasions. One major example was the supplementary budget we brought in in the fall, which was rejected by this government. Another example was on the film incentive fund issue today. We put on record our unconditional support if the government funded this program. We called for them to bring in a supplementary budget to deal with it immediately.
But there's another way to do it, Mr. Chair. The government has a contingency fund of $2.5 million sitting there for contingencies. It's at their discretion if they want to use those funds to make this initiative work. And I want to put a few of the facts on the record regarding this initiative, about which this government seems to be completely ignorant.
First of all, the president of the Northern Film and Video Industry Association was interviewed on CBC yesterday afternoon regarding the Call of the Wild project on Jack London's writings. I have before me a transcript of that interview. One of the points is that this $1.5 million requested from the Yukon government was for the first year, but the series was going to be spread out over five years.
So, if you look at the series in terms of an annual cost, Mr. Chair, that cost would only be $300,000 a year.
Now, perhaps this government, instead of driving the government through the rear-view mirror, can put behind them the issues of yesterday, look ahead and show some leadership, and recognize the virtues that this proposal would bring at very little cost. They have the means to fund this project before it's too late. The direct total spending from this project - we are looking at $8.4 million. Now, the government doesn't seem to realize that its own film commissioner, housed in the Department of Tourism, has recommended this project. The film commissioner is on record saying that the benefits produced from this $1.5 million project would be between $45 million and $50 million a year. Mr. Chair, that is a return of 30 times the investment, starting immediately. There would be 40 to 50 people actually actively preparing for the spring shoot right now. Those jobs don't have to wait; they could have been happening right now - 40 to 50 new jobs.
Now, the distinction has been made between new jobs and what the Liberals claim are new jobs. It has been relatively scrutinized and revealed that, in fact, what the Liberals claim as new jobs aren't new at all. They are old jobs, old part-time jobs that are being continued. The jobs in this proposal are new jobs and they are not short-term jobs; they are long-term jobs.
The second point is that, since this was a union show, the jobs would have been union rates - very healthy wages - not McJobs, as this government seems to be headed. Very healthy jobs for Yukoners. By year three, the number of jobs estimated are 150; year one, starting at 130 jobs.
Mr. Chair, I would submit that for this government not to take the advice of its own film commissioner, not to listen to the advice to approve this request, is in fact the definition of political interference. If that isn't political interference, then I don't know what is. Instead, the government is expending its resources and our time in this Legislature re-fighting old battles, spending new money to produce Liberal reports - Liberal audits - to finger-point the previous government's handling of the community development fund. All this to justify why it punished Yukoners for a whole year and put the community development fund on the shelf for a whole year, just to repackage it in a nice red and white package, something they could call their own. Well, it's not going to work, because Yukoners are smarter than that, and they can see through the smoke and mirrors and realize they're being hoodwinked.
This latest example of the government rejecting this proposal is proof that they're not interested in rebuilding the economy. Instead, they're more interested in finger pointing at the previous government or re-fighting the election that took place almost a year ago. When are we going to see the leadership this government promised?
They also vowed to work cooperatively with the opposition and try to improve decorum in the Assembly. Well, Mr. Chair, there are many examples that prove that to be failing, as well.
Now, the government has the opportunity to fund this project before it's too late, to take the advice of its own people in the departments who are paid to do their jobs and who are paid to forward recommendations based on their expertise. The government has a responsibility to listen to those people and not ignore them.
Today we saw the Member for Porter Creek North stand up and accuse us of making up that figure used by the film commissioner in this interview. Well, Mr. Chair, talk about a government being out of touch. It doesn't even know what its own government is saying. It's completely out of touch.
I used to sit as a member on a committee that was formed by the previous government - an ongoing committee that looked at economic issues. It's something I've mentioned before in this Legislature. Its name was the Cabinet Committee on Environment and Economic Issues. The function of that committee was to bring forward economic initiatives to the attention of the politicians. The meetings were always very interesting - attended by DMs and directors and politicians - and at times, there were some very lively debates. There was always an ongoing list of potential projects that tracked each project, identified upcoming deadlines and objectives, and so on. There were all kinds of projects. There were projects that people haven't even heard of.
Well, Mr. Chair, I can state unequivocally that if a proposal like this had been brought forward to CCEI, there would have been no roadblocks put up by government, because it is this type of private sector initiative that that committee was actively searching for. It was this type of an initiative. It was highly desired to build an industry; to open the doors to the film industry. To plant a $1.5 million seed and reap fruit off that tree immediately to the tune of $45 million to $50 million within the first three years is incredible economics - absolutely incredible economics. Instead, the government stands up and asks, "Well, where is the business case? Where is the business case? Where do they get these figures from?" Well, Mr. Chair, it's unbelievable. It's disgraceful.
Just the day before yesterday, the Minister of Renewable Resources told this House and Yukoners that the government knows best now. They don't need input from the opposition; they know best. Well, I guess that declaration had a short life. It had a shelf life of two days.
I recall from the election campaign - and, again, reading through some of the transcripts of what was said and what was promised - that the Liberals promised to rebuild the economy. They also talked about the new economy and what constituted that new economy. And within that group was the film industry. Well, Mr. Chair, isn't that what we're talking about here? Isn't that what the president of the Northern Film and Video Industry Association was talking about yesterday on CBC?
Isn't that what the representative for ARTSnet was talking about on CBC radio on Tuesday afternoon? I think it is. If the Liberals don't think that it is, then please stand up and say so. We have had enough of this driving-the-economy-looking-through-the-rear-view-mirror approach. Let's try to look ahead; let's try to be cooperative; let's try to do what's right. We know that there is money in a contingency fund that can go toward this immediately, with no delays. An alternative is bringing in a supplementary budget; it would probably take a day or two to do that. But we cannot afford to lose this project. We can't afford to lose it. Today I mentioned that one of the competitive locations is Alkali Lake in B.C. We can't afford to lose this to some other place.
Now, the Premier relegates the importance of this, and she compares the cost to our economy on a B.C. scale. I invite her to continue that context to the benefits to our economy on a B.C. scale and to complete the business-case crunching and admit that the benefits are huge. What does 150 local jobs mean in terms of percentage up here? Don't compare 150 jobs with B.C. Compare the number to the Yukon. What does it mean here? Good union jobs. Think of the hotel rooms, the rental cars and everything else. This project has been ignored for far too long. I understand that the industry has been trying to bring this project to the attention of the government for several months.
More than half a year is what I heard. Mr. Chair, this is disgraceful. It doesn't make sense. It's in direct contradiction to what the Liberals say they're going to do. And believe me, we won't let this government forget this example if it should slip through the fingers of the Yukon and go somewhere else.
Now, I would like to cooperatively ask the Premier if she can consider the options available, avoid any delay of this project, and let's get it here in the Yukon for the benefit of everybody. I look across the floor and look at the faces of several of the MLAs across the floor, and I don't think they're too happy about this, either. I think I can speak for everyone on this side of the House - we will support this. So, let's do something cooperatively for once and let's get this project for the territory.
Will she seriously consider doing that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are a couple of facts that the member opposite may not be aware of. This project would cost the Yukon government significantly more than the $1.5 million that has been quoted. The total contribution by the Yukon government over the five years of the project would be $12.7 million, including $11.6 million under the Yukon film incentive program and an additional $1.1 million in funding in the first year of the project.
If we agree to do this, in effect Yukon government will be providing a subsidy of up to $34,000 per job and the private sector and the public sector would certainly have an opinion about the Yukon government providing a subsidy to a private business of $34,000 per job, taking $12.7 million of money, a portion of which could be spent to build the Mayo school.
Or a portion of which could be spent toward a new correctional facility, or on highways, or on any number of other specific community initiatives.
I have said repeatedly, and the acting Minister of Tourism has stood on his feet in the House today and said, that the proposal, as it was submitted, would have required a financial commitment that was way over and above what is available under the current Yukon film incentive program. We are more than prepared, with the support from the opposition that they have just indicated, to consider another proposal. However, a $34,000 subsidy per job is more than what we can afford right now.
Mr. McRobb: Well, those figures are interesting but, at this point, I'm not prepared to believe them, especially given the lack of understanding demonstrated by this government on this matter and, even so, Mr. Chair, there's still a large return on investment - about four times, within the first three years. From what I understand, the industry's position is that, after the three-year period, such programs as this are self-sustaining. And we don't hear that aspect from the Premier. Instead, what approach do we hear? A very confrontational approach that pits Yukoners against Yukoners, and that's another promise broken, Mr. Chair, because I can vividly remember the Premier, in opposition and during the election campaign, promising she wouldn't do that.
We don't have to eliminate the Mayo school or funding to other groups out there to make this a reality. If the Premier would admit that her numbers in the budget forecast are overly pessimistic and that there are smoke and mirrors and hidden money there, maybe that's the area that can go toward kick-starting this industry, instead of pitting Yukoners against each other.
So, Mr. Chair, I would once again ask her to seriously consider this, to put the politics aside, and let's get down to business. There's a good business case here and, if there's the political will to do this, it can happen. And there's a difference between political will and political interference. I would have hoped that, after a year, this government would have learned what that difference is.
Now, I've got a number of other things to say, but the pecking order over here, I believe, goes to the leader of the third party, following the leader of the official opposition. So I'm prepared to pass the floor to the Member for Klondike at this time.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I rise to pose a number of questions to the Minister of Finance on this budget. I think, at the outset, it's appropriate that we dispel a number of myths that this Liberal government is attempting to create. The first myth is that the government is broke.
They have no money. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we look back at the surplus that the Auditor General confirmed, which was left to the previous government, it is quite a significant amount of money - some $60-odd million. This is the second of probably four Liberal budgets that we will see before the House in the remainder of the 30 months of the Liberal mandate - approximately 30 months, Mr. Chair.
But the myth out there that the Liberals are touting is that the government has no money; it is broke. If you listened to the Minister of Health try to explain things, he went on to say that, yes, they were left with a $60-million surplus, but in the last month of operation of the government under the NDP, they spent some $30-odd million of that money. Well, yes, that type of money was spent. It was spent by way of warrants, but that does not all come out of the accumulated surplus. That comes out of the next year's budget.
And, yes, we are seeing successive governments draw down the accumulated surplus that the NDP inherited from the Yukon Party, some $60-odd million.
The NDP government has turned over virtually the same amount of surplus to this new Liberal government, and all we're hearing out of this Liberal government is that they're broke, they don't have any money, they only have $6 million. Mr. Chair, that $6 million that they're speaking of is a projected surplus. It's not going to be even close to reality at the end of the day.
So, what do we have? We have this Yukon Liberal government that's fast losing the confidence of Yukoners. No one would dispute that the Liberals were elected with an overwhelming majority in the last election, but they were elected because they had a number of IOUs out there that they were going to do a number of things. They were very few and far between, mind you, Mr. Chair, but one was that they were going to resolve the teacher situation. Either we're seeing a very dismal attempt on the part of the Minister of Education to do so, or there's no desire there to accomplish what was expected of them when they were elected to office.
The issue is money, and the message from the Minister of Education going out to the teachers is, "We're broke. We don't have any money." Mr. Chair, nothing could be further from the truth.
This government is not broke. This government is in a good financial position, but this government requires prudent financial management and a vision - a vision that we haven't seen any example of. In fact, it was pointed out to me in the budget book - budget 2001-02 - that there are long-term plans. You turn the page, and it says, "This page left intentionally blank."
There do not appear to be any reasonable long-term plans emanating from this government. That is a sad day for Yukoners. The only hope that we are supposed to hang our hat on is the potential for an Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline coming through our area. It may or may not happen. That decision will be made by others outside of the boundaries of the Yukon. We will just facilitate the potential for an Alaska Highway pipeline, should it occur. Nothing else.
I'm hopeful that it might occur, because there are a number of possible benefits: employ Yukoners and provide us with an alternate source of fuel. But the only hope that is being held out to stimulate the economy, by our Minister of Economic Development, the Minister of Finance, is the coming of a pipeline.
Start looking at some of the other areas where Yukoners could have been put back to work this last winter. And the official opposition went on at great lengths surrounding the community development fund, but the bottom line is that the community development fund was one of the most well-respected and sought-after funding vehicles that any government has ever put together. Demands on it were overwhelming and, contrary to what we are led to believe by the Minister of Finance, it did an awful lot of good. Yes, there were a number of problems on the administration side, on the accountability side, for the dollars. But, overall, that fund did a lot of good. And when the clock stops ticking on this sort of a funding initiative, like the Liberals did - they virtually cut it right off. "We are going to review it." They brought it back with a new name and funded it to the level of $1.5 million. Contrast that to last year when the funding level was $3 million, or contrast that to the year before that when the funding level was $6 million. That fund alone put a lot of Yukoners to work and did an awful lot of good. I believe that the majority of Yukoners would tell the minister that the benefits far outweighed the problems.
But because of the political position and the political posturing done by the current Minister of Finance when in opposition, it was deemed to be a slush fund and had to be stopped. Now, it's just resurrected under a new name, and it's going to be interesting when we see how many requests are currently in the hopper for access to this fund, Mr. Chair. I would suggest it's going to be an overwhelming request and demand. And perhaps because it would have benefited a lot of rural Yukoners, that's why the Liberals acted upon it and axed it - not their ridings, they don't represent them. No need to do anything there. And they certainly didn't.
Start looking at some of the other initiatives that could have put Yukoners to work this winter. The fire smart program could have done a great deal, Mr. Chair, to put Yukoners to work. The clock was stopped on that initiative, also. No money was let out. Shame.
I guess what it holds is a new Liberal definition of "recession" and "depression". "Recession" is when your neighbour loses his or her job; "depression" is when you lose your job. That should become the new Liberal definition of "recession" and "depression". And they don't really care about a recession until it becomes a depression. I guess they're fortunate enough that it can't really become a depression for at least another 30 months, when the next election comes about.
Mr. Chair, there are a multitude of areas where this government could have put efforts into reviving the economy and put Yukoners back to work. They could have made a much more dedicated effort to settle the teachers strike. If you contrast the conciliator's report to what the Liberal government has added in expenses to ECO, which is basically more Liberal patronage appointments and more Liberal expenses for travel and the like, to cut ribbons and eat cake and do photo ops with Prime Ministers, those cost increases in ECO would have covered the collective bargaining agreement increases with the teachers at the level that the teachers are requesting.
So, the government has established its priorities. It's going to spend the money on itself, not on the areas where government is charged with the responsibility to deliver a service.
The Minister of Finance might have a look at the increase in ECO's budget. She might want to look at what has been moved out of ECO into other departments of government and add that back into the equation to see how much of growth in government, right under her own nose, has taken place, Mr. Chair. It is significant. It is very significant.
If we start looking at the areas that drive the Yukon economy and the attention that the Minister of Finance - the Premier, the Minister of Economic Development - is paying to - everything wrapped up into one. There is a potential for a tremendous amount of oil and gas in the Beaufort Sea, off the northern shore of Yukon. Instead, what do we see? We see the Yukon Liberal government position of going ahead with a new Yukon Act that will maintain the boundaries on our northern limits as the historical high-water mark. Contrary to what the Premier is saying, we do not have jurisdiction beyond that area. Nunavut does. Northwest Territories do. Yukon does not. Premier Kakfwi will probably be over here asserting his responsibility and authority for that area. Just what is the Premier doing in this regard?
It became abundantly clear in Question Period today that she isn't doing anything; she is relying on a position paper from a constitutional expert from the Northwest Territories, of all places. She might be well-advised to develop her own position paper and look at the issue from a Yukon perspective, not from a Yukon Liberal perspective. And there is still the dispute on our northern boundary between the U.S. and Canada as to how the boundary of Canada continues when you get to the high-water mark.
According to the United States, it's 90 degrees from that point out. Canada is still maintaining it's the 141st. There's a great big pie in there that has tremendous potential for oil and gas. I don't even believe the Premier has mentioned this issue to the Prime Minister of Canada, that it's an issue that should be resolved.
I guess it's easy to sit in Whitehorse and envision what's happening way up there in the Beaufort Sea, but let's look at what our neighbours to the east are doing. They're actually up there in the Beaufort Sea, encouraging development - encouraging the oil and gas industry to get on with it. One only has to go to Inuvik to see how busy a community would be that has welcomed oil and gas exploration.
We have the same potential. Oil and gas deposits just don't stop at the border when you go from the Yukon to the Northwest Territories, but we have to get on with developing. The Yukon could be a net exporter of energy, Mr. Chair. Instead, we're importing it at an alarming rate from everywhere and paying astronomical prices for it. So much for economic development. So much for this Liberal government.
That's one area where the Premier could make a stand, but I guess she probably doesn't want to offend her Liberal colleagues and friends in Ottawa, and I don't believe she would be offending them. It's just a simple request that the Yukon should be treated with respect to offshore boundaries the same way as the new territory of Nunavut was treated by the Government of Canada, and the same way that the Northwest Territories was treated by the Government of Canada.
What are we? Do we have a third-ranking colonial status here, Mr. Chair? It appears so. That's what the Premier's message must be. It's a sad day for Yukon.
Let's look at some of the areas that the Premier expounded on in her budget presentation and what she undertook to put together this budget. I'd like to ask the Premier to provide a list of all the projects that were identified on the community tours.
Now, we had the dog and pony show run around the Yukon kind of after the fact, because everyone knows the budget was pretty well set back in December and that there was room for very little tinkering this spring. But the communities did offer some very valuable input and did offer and make some significant requests of government. I'm sure a detailed inventory of these requests was kept by those members of the Liberal caucus who were on this tour around Yukon, and I'm sure it was either kept directly by those members, Mr. Chair, or by the accompanying entourage that was with them. Would the minister agree to table a list of all the items identified on the community tour that just took place?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we have provided, as requested by the leader of the official opposition, a list of the meetings that took place and also who from our offices attended those meetings, as well as who attended meetings representing the Department of Finance.
The priorities identified by communities have been contained in the budget. The priorities are as outlined and as I have said in my budget speech. The member opposite is asking us to release conversations and public meetings. While those certainly are not secret, he was certainly welcome to attend them. I know he attended the meeting in Dawson, so he would have been well aware of what was suggested there. We have listened to what communities had to say, and we have responded accordingly in our budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'd like to thank the Premier for her answer, but what I'm looking for is a list that was compiled by those on the community tours of the requests put forward in the respective areas that they visited. I'm sure that list of requests exists within the Liberal caucus somewhere. I'm requesting that information. Is there a big, deep, dark secret as to what communities are requesting? What's the problem with releasing it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I will provide the information from public meetings. I will not provide our meetings with interest groups or those where individual organizations came in and spoke with us. I will provide the information from the public meetings to the member opposite, although the member opposite, of course, as member of the public, was most welcome to attend. And I don't need to restate Dawson, because I believe the member opposite attended that meeting.
We will provide the information from the public meetings.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the chief and council meetings are public. The mayor and council meetings are public. And there is also the one that the general population is invited to. Now, what is the problem with providing all of the information? Is there something that the minister is wanting to hide, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The very fact that this government is providing the list of meeting dates and who attended the meetings is new and is far more open and accountable. The very fact that we are prepared to provide a list - because I stood in opposition and asked for that list from public meetings and never got it. The fact is that I am committed to provide the Member for Klondike with the information from public meetings. I am certainly fully prepared and quite willing to do that, and we will do that in a very timely manner.
Individuals coming in to speak with me, or to speak with any member of caucus, is not information - those individuals are not anticipating that their ability to speak with an MLA is subject to tabling in the House. In all fairness, it would be completely inappropriate for me to offer to table that information without, at a minimum, speaking with those other organizations first, and I am not going to put a very good, constructive working relationship in jeopardy.
Mr. Jenkins: What I am looking for is the information from the public meetings. The mayor and council meetings are public and the chief and council meetings are public. I am not looking for information that comes forward out of a meeting when an individual comes in and meets with one of the MLAs. I am just looking for the public information sessions and that information. I would like the Premier to bring that forward, because I am aware of significant requests that were made on these community tours that did not even receive the time of day here or even honourable mention, or anything of that nature.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I already said I would provide the information from the public meetings. Is the member opposite also prepared to acknowledge the fact that this is information that is now being provided in the House that wasn't done before?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, whether it was provided before or not, that information was made available, and I had that information before from the previous meetings. I don't see why I can't get it again. I had no trouble obtaining it, either directly or indirectly, from the prior government.
Now, I don't know what the minister has to hide or why she should be hiding anything. So, if she'd agree to provide it for the meetings with chief and council and mayor and council, that's fine, along with the public meetings. That's great. That's all I'm looking forward to.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I still didn't get an answer from the minister as to whether I'm going to get the information from the chief and council meetings and the mayor and council meetings - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite will receive the information from the public meetings. Chief and council meetings are not public. The meetings that we had - certainly the one I attended with chief and council, several chiefs and council - were not public, at chief and council's request, nor was the meeting I attended with mayor and council public. I have committed to the member opposite that, for the public meetings, I will provide the member opposite with the information. I've already committed to that.
Mr. Jenkins: A number of the unorganized communities subsequently sent letters into the Premier's office, after they had some time to reflect on the meetings. Could that information also be included?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I will check with the author of the correspondence prior to releasing it.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's start looking at some of the initiatives, Mr. Chair. One of the projects was the feasibility study of an access road in southeast Yukon. Can the Premier identify how much money has been directed toward this feasibility study in relation to the road? Just what are we going to do?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that's a specific question for the Community and Transportation Services minister. I note that we are scheduled to go into Community and Transportation Services debate next, and I would invite the member opposite to ask that specific question then.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll probably find that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services has less of an understanding of this initiative than the Minister of Finance and the Government Leader herself. This is a major, highlighted initiative, another road to resources. I would have thought Economic Development would have played a role in initiating this kind of a new construction, but it seems not. I guess highways are just off on their own, developing these kinds of initiatives. Is that the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the examination of a potential feasibility study of a road in southeast Yukon was a direct request from the Chief and Council of the Liard First Nation, as well as the Mayor and Council of the Town of Watson Lake, as well as the representatives of the Chamber of Commerce.
The highlight in the budget speech notes that we heard a concern and have responded to it. The precise details of that expenditure are open to debate in the departmental budget, wherein that particular expenditure is contained, which is the Department of Community and Transportation Services. So, in spite of the cheap personal attacks from the Member for Klondike, I'm certain that my colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, will be more than happy to answer the questions specifically related to that project.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this is the feasibility study of a development road into resources. After the fact, the department of highways usually comes in and looks at the practicality, location and the engineering of it. But the actual feasibility and cost-benefit analysis are usually done by the Department of Economic Development. But if the minister's Department of Economic Development is not equal to the task under her guidance, I guess that it could be transferred over to Community and Transportation Services.
There is also the issue that the Liberals, when in opposition, proposed and were dealing with projects such as a multi-level health care facility in both Watson Lake and Dawson City. Where are we at with these initiatives, and why didn't we see anything in this budget in this regard? It was a big promise, a big pledge when this Liberal government was in opposition. In the first budget, it was kind of explained away by saying that it was not their budget: "Wait until next time when it will be our budget with our handwriting on it." It is, but we don't see a number of the promises being committed to which previously were the highlight of their term in opposition. Where are they? Where is this initiative for multi-level health care facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The priority of the community of Watson Lake is as I have identified in my earlier answer. The priorities that they have indicated were: the Chief and Council of the Liard First Nation specifically asked us to deal with issues around their landfill site; and the mayor and council indicated they were very supportive of our work in terms of forestry as an economic driver, and they also asked that we examine some of the options that they are talking about as a community around the road. They did not identify as a priority health care in their community. That was raised at the end of the public meeting by an individual, and it was in terms of overcoming some existing issues. It wasn't in terms of construction of a new facility.
The Chair of the Committee of the Whole was present in Dawson. The City of Dawson and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in have made a number of requests from their meetings. The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in requested that, as a priority, we establish funding for management and interpretation of the Tombstone Park to staff that emerging park, and that is contained in this budget. And the mayor and council, as the member opposite is very well aware, have embarked upon an ambitious program in their community, in terms of the new swimming pool that was opened, as well as the recreation centre and the city council offices. There has been funding provided to assist with the recreation centre. I also would note that there also has been a significant private sector investment in the City of Dawson, in terms of tourism infrastructure initiatives as well.
The budget priorities are as reflected. If the member has specific questions around specific health expenditures, I'm sure that the minister will be happy to answer.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30 p.m., do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on the First Appropriation Act. I believe Mr. Jenkins had the floor.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it was interesting to note in the Premier's last response, Mr. Chair - if you just go back to my previous question. I asked her to table a list of all of the information and requests from the meetings with the chiefs and councils, mayors and councils, and public meetings, but she only tabled the information from the public meetings. Well, fine. But then, in her response to the last question, she used a whole series of information from the meetings with chiefs and councils and with mayors and councils.
I don't know what the big deep, dark secret is and what the Premier is afraid of. Could it be just that she only wants to use this information when it's an opportune time, when it suits her purpose, and when she doesn't want to paint the true and overall picture of what was requested and what was asked of her and her government? One can only reach that conclusion, because what is being painted by the Premier is only half the picture.
And it's only fair, Mr. Chair, that the entire picture be painted. Once again, I'll go back to the Premier and ask her if she is prepared to table the information that was requested of her and her Liberal colleagues, in the community tours, from mayors and councils and chiefs and councils. Will she do so?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm respecting the work that was done with communities, with mayors and councils and with chiefs and councils. Some meetings were at the request of the chief and council only. Where a public meeting was conducted, I will be happy to provide the member opposite with information. Where we have been written a letter with a budget request, I will check with the author of the letter prior to providing it to the member opposite.
I have indicated to the member opposite that we would provide the information from the public meeting, that we would do so in a timely manner, and I will check with the author in terms of any correspondence on the budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, one can only conclude that when the information suits the needs of the Premier and her Liberal colleagues, it will be provided and it will be used in budget debate or otherwise. But when it is not in their interest, it will be left tabled somewhere - another doorstop collection of information.
Let's move on to one of the other areas that was previously discussed - the highway construction and the amount of money going into capital. The Liberal government made great fanfare that, under the past two governments, the capital budget for highways was decimated - decimated. We subsequently learned the definition of "decimate", and one has to go to the dictionary. And it's quite a stretch when you say one in 10, or 10 percent - the definition of "decimate", as applied to this position.
For the record, Mr. Chair, I'll give you the actual figures that were spent. These are Government of Yukon figures for what was spent on highways, going back to the 1992-93 fiscal period. This is not including Shakwak expenditures. At that time, it was some $22 million. In 1993-94, it was $17 million; in 1994-95, $19 million; 1995-96, $19 million; 1996-97, $17 million. Then, in 1997-98, it started dropping, $13 million; 1998-99, $9.5 million. Then it went down in this last fiscal period, which this Liberal government had an opportunity to amend and change, to $4.6 million. Then it dropped to $3.8 million. It's slowly coming back, but the big expenditure has been the Shakwak.
That's the transfer of money from the Government of the United States to the Government of Canada, on to the Government of Yukon for the construction of the Alaska Highway, west of Whitehorse, Mr. Chair.
That's the reality. That's the order of magnitude of expenditures under the Yukon Party and under the subsequent NDP. It did drop, yes; but if we look at what was approved in the last budget - the NDP budget that was brought forward by this Liberal government for capital expenditures and upgrades to highways - and we look at what they spent, Mr. Chair, it was only after a hue and cry emanated from rural Yukon about the conditions of the growth along the highway. And you check back. Tenders were actually out and issued for the control of brush alongside the highways. They were subsequently cancelled by this Liberal government, Mr. Chair, and then, only after repeated requests of this government were they re-instituted - so much for paying attention to the upgrading of our highways, and so much for the safety along our highways.
What we are having is the Liberal spin put on the highways. The reality is something else. And it's not because there isn't enough money there; it's because this government is choosing to grow government, and spend more and more money on itself than on those initiatives that create the economic well-being of the Yukon.
Let's look in the same window at airports. There's still a requirement for upgrading to the Whitehorse International Airport so we can meet the growing potential needs for wide-bodies. We're in that market, but let's do the job right. There are still upgrades needed at the Whitehorse Airport.
If we go to one of the most northerly airports that Yukon has care and control of - in Old Crow - that's slipping into the river. It needs a whole bunch of rip-rap placed on the edge. But the Texas pea gravel that's being placed there won't do very much but wash away the next spring runoff, and we're left with the same problem.
When we do something, let's do it right.
Then we have the airport in Dawson City. It's interesting to go through the list of deficiencies identified by Transport Canada on that airport alone. It is significant in itself. Then, when we look in this budget, we see virtually no money for the airport in Dawson, save and except under Community and Transportation Services that there is an increase in the snow removal budget. And that comes about because of safety reasons. They can't leave the amount of accumulated snow on the runways to the level that they previously have done, and then have medevac aircraft come in and land. So, in order to meet the demands, which are growing through the Yukon for medevacs, they are going to spend more money on snow removal. Never mind the 40-odd issues identified by Transport Canada.
There is a potential that if these issues are not addressed and fixed, the airport could lose its certification. It certainly came very, very close last year. Nothing in this budget.
The basic infrastructure is what you build a society on - transportation, communication and energy. Start looking at some of the initiatives in all of these areas and one has to question the wisdom of this government in allowing them to proceed, or make them so that they will work. Make them so that they will work for all Yukoners.
The Minister of Economic Development, responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, hasn't yet told the balance of the Yukon how much they are going to be paying for the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, and how much of a subsidy they are going to have to pay for that transmission line.
Really, as Yukoners, we by and large probably couldn't care less whether the budget is a surplus or a deficit. All we're asking is that government address those areas that government is responsible for, and do it fairly, openly and properly. The exercise of good government is to provide the highest consistent level of service at the lowest possible cost to the end consumer. We're the end consumer. We're not seeing that.
What we're seeing, Mr. Chair, is a government that is spending more and more and more on itself. The growth of government under this Liberal guidance is virtually at an all-time high, and we used to think that the NDP knew how to grow government. My gosh, the Liberals must have taken lessons from somewhere, and it looks like they're taking lessons from the NDP and improving upon them, because they certainly have grown government. There are so many programs that used to be in the private sector in Health and Social Services that have now been moved over and taken in-house to the Government of Yukon. It's accelerating at an alarming rate.
The Health and Social Services budget is the largest department in the Government of Yukon, and yet Yukoners are not receiving the medical attention that they require. Yukoners are not receiving the attention that is required in the FAS/FAE community. It's a sad day for Yukoners, Mr. Chair.
One of the other initiatives that has only recently come to light is the request of the film fund to supply a significant sum of money for an ongoing series here in the Yukon. When I was first contacted about this initiative back in, actually, January of this year, and asked to lobby the government, I did make some inquiries at that time. I checked out the background of this organization, and it's very, very credible. The potential is to have a series done here, similar to what The Beachcombers had in British Columbia. It would be ongoing, for quite a number of years.
And yes, this company was out shopping around to see which government would put up the most money. What do we hear? The Premier suggested that if the government got involved, it would be political interference. Maybe so, but let's recognize political opportunity that would put a number of Yukoners back to work and put a number of dollars into the Yukon economy. It is sadly lacking and sadly needed. It would be ongoing, not just for Whitehorse, but for some areas of rural Yukon. This film will probably be done, in large part, somewhere else.
The problem is that this Liberal government can't recognize political opportunity, and there doesn't appear to be a political will to do anything, other than to maintain the status quo, hold the line and cry poverty, whether it be to the Yukon teachers, the film crew or any other initiative that will do something for Yukoners.
The pat answer coming out of this government is, "We're broke." We have a projected $6-million surplus. That speaks for itself. It's exactly that - it's a projected surplus and nothing more. It'll be interesting, at the end of the fiscal period, to see exactly where we are. The Auditor General will be reporting, and I'm sure, historically, there have been quite a number of dollars lapsing, and we will still be in a reasonably good financial position, vis-à-vis a lot of other areas in Canada.
But if we just focus on the glory of political office, like the Premier and her colleagues are doing today, Mr. Chair, the Yukon is going to continue to go backward, and we've done so, and we've done it at a significant rate this last year. This summer will probably see the lowest amount of placer mining activity since the early 1970s. This summer, we'll probably have very little, if any, mining exploration, because this Premier and her colleagues have scared everyone away in the mining community with three words: protected areas strategy. There's too much uncertainty surrounding land tenure here in the Yukon, which this Premier has helped foster and develop. Until some certainty can be brought to that equation, the mining community is stagnant.
Yes, we have Anderson up at Eagle Plains for six weeks, but it'll be interesting to conduct a review at the end of the time that Anderson is at Eagle Plains, and see just how many dollars flowed into the pockets of Yukon workers.
When you have six weeks of work and you split that six weeks up between three Yukon helicopter companies, not one is really going to get ahead. Let's just hope for a very good forest firefighting season so the helicopters can go to work up here again. Now, I know that's an area that the Minister of Finance, the Premier, is looking at under devolution, but at the end of the day, it does put a lot of Yukoners to work, because we really can't get THAs any longer from the federal government. You can't even cut the stuff after it's burnt, Mr. Chair. But I guess the policy of the federal government with respect to forestry is "Let it burn."
Mr. Chair, this is the largest budget ever in Yukon's history. Now, this budget doesn't appear to have much hope of putting Yukoners back to work. One of the claims made by the Premier in her budget address was that this budget was going to sustain 700 full-time jobs. Now, my question to the Premier, Mr. Chair, is that, in subsequent meetings with the press, the Premier made the statement that this budget is going to create 700 full-time jobs. Now, other than in government, can the minister provide an explanation and an overview of where these 700 jobs are going to be created?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would just like to address a couple of points raised by the member opposite. With regard to the project that was discussed - the Call of the Wild project that was discussed earlier - perhaps the member opposite wasn't aware of it, but I noted that the overall cost of this project to Yukon would be in the neighbourhood of $12.6 million and the subsidy to the private sector would be about $34,000 per job. As an individual associated in the past with the private sector, perhaps the member opposite can appreciate that a $34,000 subsidy per job to the private sector is something that this government would approach very, very cautiously. That is an extensive subsidy to one particular company, and it would require a great deal of explanation to Yukoners. We have long indicated our support for the film incentive fund - as the Tourism opposition critic, the Tourism minister and as the acting Tourism minister - we have all indicated our support for the film incentive. We are not supportive of putting all of our eggs in one basket, and a $12.6-million expenditure of this government warrants very, very careful discussion.
The members opposite are also continually referring to operation and maintenance as being money spent on government itself, and I would just like to remind members opposite that included in that operation and maintenance figure is $19.6 million to the Whitehorse General Hospital, $9.5 million in social assistance payments, $5.1 million in child care operating grants and subsidies, $11.8 million in municipal grants, $2.4 million in homeowner grants, $11.4 to Yukon College, $3.7 in post-secondary student grants and scholarships - money for young people.
Also included is $1.4 million in legal aid, $0.3 million in community library boards, $31.6 million in highway maintenance, $11.8 million in police services agreement, $27.8 million in medical services, $16.4 million in community health and nursing, and $56.5 million in the public schools program. That's not government spending money on itself, Mr. Chair. That's Yukoners' money being spent on Yukoners.
With respect to the jobs contained in the budget, I would remind the members opposite that what has happened is that these figures are reviewed by departments in terms of their expenditures and their estimated job creation, and reviewed by financial officials as well as the economists in Economic Development. So the figures are best estimates with careful scrutiny.
The member opposite is asking where some of the jobs are being sustained. The bulk of those jobs are in Community and Transportation Services. There are also jobs in some of the other areas of government, including the Economic Development department itself, not so much in terms of the staffing within government, because the department isn't growing, but in terms of the job creation in programs like the Yukon mining incentive program and the Project Yukon and others. There is job creation noted in there. There are also, in terms of Education - particularly in light of some of the work being done on the physical structures of our schools - some 46-plus full-time equivalents in there. I didn't give the member opposite figures. In Economic Development, there are about 19 in mining and about 180 in Community and Transportation Services.
In Government Services, in information services, there is job sustainability in the neighbourhood of about 17. In technology and telecommunications, there are about 11.
In the Department of Health and Social Services - this is where the member opposite accuses this government of growing government and an increase in full-time equivalents. Some of those full-time equivalents are in Health and Social Services, in work with young people - with troubled youth. Some are in Justice, in terms of victim assistance programming. There are also positions, of course, in the medical field and community nursing.
If the member opposite would like a - obviously, I am going through some of the documents that have been provided to me, as Minister of Finance. If the member opposite would like me to provide a summary of these documents, I am prepared to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: I would certainly appreciate receiving a summary, Mr. Chair.
But let's look at a job. How is the minister defining a job? Is it X number of weeks of work? A lot of these jobs she is referring to are seasonal. Now, what is a job, in the minister's opinion? Is it a week's work, or two weeks' work? Is it a minimum of 35 hours of work per week, at 50 weeks a year? What is the minister's definition of a job?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's the same standard that has been used in the past. A full-time equivalent is a year's work. What I'll do is provide the member opposite with the substantiation of this document and just a short précis on the review conducted. For example, in the audit report, the objectives have been noted and how they were measured. So, we'll provide the measurement information to the member opposite, and I'm certain that the leader of the official opposition would also like the same document. We'll ensure it's provided.
Mr. Jenkins: In the budget speech, Mr. Chair, the Premier was very, very careful. She said that the budget will sustain almost 700 full-time private sector jobs. Those were the exact words. In subsequent interviews with the media, the Premier came across as making the statement that they will be creating 700 full-time private sector jobs. Now, which is it: sustain or create?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Sustain.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister, and I'll look forward to the Liberal calculator as to how they've come to the conclusion that they have.
Now, given the same formula, I'm sure that the government has looked back to last year as to the number of jobs sustained by that budget. What would the comparison be?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It was a similar figure. I believe the difference in figures was 670-something, and there was a slight increase to the 700. But I'll get the exact figures for the member opposite. That's information that has previously been provided in this House, and we'll certainly be glad to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess the expectations are, Mr. Chair, that we're waiting for Mr. Martin to come and give us a handful of money again or something in that order of magnitude.
It's kind of interesting. I haven't gone back to review the transcripts, but what the Premier did say in the news media was "create 700 new full-time jobs". What we are seeing, Mr. Chair, is basically maintaining the status quo - not much change from last year as to what government spending was going to do in the private sector vis-à-vis what government spending is projected to do in the private sector again this year. But there's a lot to do. It's under its own headline, "Rebuilding the Yukon economy."
The Liberal spin on that one is very interesting.
One of the other areas of concern that I have with the budget is that usually there's an economic forecast that comes in front of the budget, and is encompassed as part of the budget. Why was that change made with this budget and why is there no economic forecast? Is it because the economic forecast for the Yukon is so deplorable that the government of the day is afraid to table it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: In the past, the economic forecast, or economic outlook, has been tabled after the budget, and I've already indicated to the leader of the official opposition that I anticipated its tabling shortly. I don't have a specific date in front of me; however, I will provide it to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other reports that's normally tabled about the same time, or along with it, is the environmental report review. I'm looking for the 1999 one on the state of the environment. Where is that report, and what is prolonging it being tabled? It's usually tabled along with the budget, or associated with it. Why is that not being tabled?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Renewable Resources and I both believe that that report was tabled. In fact, that was one of the first reports that was tabled, because there was a big mixup as to whether or not the opposition gets copies in advance. I'm sure that was the report that was tabled.
However, we will double-check on that. The only other report that I've seen that I'm asking officials when I table is the Yukon geology program report, and I've just seen that. I don't know if it has been tabled in the past or not, but I certainly will be asking officials, when I meet with them tomorrow, whether or not that report is normally tabled in this House.
From what I've seen so far, I'm certainly prepared to be very complimentary to the folks in the geology program who have prepared it, and I would commend it as reading to the members opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's kind of like the environmental report - this report on the geology of the Yukon - we would love to read it, but we don't have a copy. If the minister would send it over, we will have a look at it. If she's going to recommend some reading, it would be nice if she would provide us with a copy.
Mr. Chair, another initiative that was promised by this government in opposition but doesn't appear to be anywhere on the horizon is the ongoing replacement of existing schools. One of the schools here in Whitehorse that was proposed by the Liberals to be replaced was Grey Mountain. Is that going to appear? Can the minister give us any indication of the capital spending priorities for school replacement from here on? All that we are seeing here is a continuation of the NDP position, although slightly delayed and hesitating with respect to the Mayo school - postponed. Now, I guess the tender will be closed very quickly. We may or may not see a suit against the government for bid-shopping. It is my understanding that there is not much change in the floor plans over the previous documents. This would lead one to conclude that there are going to be difficulties down the road. I was just wondering what the program is. Normally, there has been a major announcement by the government of the day as to which school would be the next to be replaced. I would ask the Premier if she has any idea as to which school it will be?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the major capital announcement of this government was the response to the business and labour community, which asked us to table the capital budget for 2002-03 in the fall, as opposed to a practice that was changed under the Yukon Party with one super-budget and super-session.
The long-term capital plan of the government will also be tabled at that point in time.
The school construction, as tabled in this budget before us, is the Mayo school. As well, there is the grade reorganization - started under Minister Phelps to ensure that the Catholic Schools, both Holy Family and Christ the King Elementary, are able to accommodate grade 7 - also contained in this budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, she didn't answer the question, Mr. Chair. All that we are seeing is the change in the policies and how the programs are going forward. What I am seeking from the Premier is some indication of what the replacement program is going to be. Are the Liberals going to honour their commitment with respect to the replacement of Grey Mountain Primary School? Or are they going to deviate from their election position and their campaign promise?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The long-term capital plan and the capital plan will be tabled in the fall, and I look forward to debating it with the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Usually in the budget speech - and this budget speech contains O&M and capital for this fiscal period - there is an indication of what is going to transpire with respect to capital expenditures. All we have in this budget is a continuation of a number of projects that were put in place by the previous NDP government, and that's it. And it's interesting to note that they tout that capital spending is up by some seven-point-something percent, but that is a comparison of last year's main estimate for capital expenditure and this year's estimate for capital expenditure.
Again, the comparison is very interesting, given that this government cancelled the Mayo school and reduced the capital spending last year. It really skews the figures and puts a political spin on them so that, really, it sounds great but it's not the reality of the day. Last year, it was agreed that the capital budget was going to go ahead, and the Mayo school was included in that, if you compare that main estimate. And that's all it is, Mr. Chair - an estimate. What was spent is something entirely different. So, it sounded good when the Premier was giving her budget address; the reality is something else.
What we're looking at is stimulating the economy and putting people back to work. How does she hope to do that by cancelling projects?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, thanks to the good work, the hard work on the part of the Minister of Government Services and the Minister of Education, working with the community, we anticipate students being in the Mayo school in January 2002. And we anticipate Yukon contractors being at work prior to the end of this fiscal year. There has been no cancellation of the Mayo school.
The point the member makes about capital spending with regard to Education, I would just note that the Department of Education will spend over $11.8 million on capital projects, including the Mayo school. There is also $1.6 million for expansion projects at Holy Family and Christ the King elementary schools in Whitehorse, and that's the final part of grade reorganization and will move the grade 7 students from Vanier Catholic Secondary School to the elementary schools. In addition, the government is also spending $250,000 for work on the heating system at Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing, $400,000 to replace the heating system at Takhini Elementary, and $750,000 set aside for the annual Yukon College capital contribution.
So there is quite an expenditure of monies on capital projects in education.
Mr. Jenkins: No one is questioning the amount. What I'm questioning is the way it's portrayed to the public - a seven-percent increase in net capital spending over last year's main estimates. That's a comparison of estimate to estimate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Apples to apples, the Premier says. But when the apple from last year has been considerably eroded by this government and you try to make the same comparison, it really skews the whole situation, and it paints a picture that's really only half a picture, and it's a sad situation to see.
There's the creation of this new alcohol and drug secretariat at some $2.3 million - more and more government. Sustained private sector jobs. It would be amazing to see what that same expenditure would do if that same amount of money that is being expended on creating this new department in government was used, Mr. Chair, and spread across all the NGOs. It would be very interesting to see what benefits could accrue to Yukon. But, no, we're determined to create more government, bigger government. Why? I don't know, but we have to look at the programs we're delivering and make sure they're efficient and effective. That part is missing out of the equation. It seems that we have a knee-jerk reaction to take more and more of these programs in-house and set up another bureaucracy, instead of fixing what's wrong with the existing program.
All we see is the marching forward of more and more government. Could the minister advise the House what the salary level of the executive director is? Have we created another deputy minister position at the alcohol and drug secretariat? Is the head of that secretariat a deputy minister's position?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I don't have the job advertisement for the CEO of the alcohol and drug secretariat in front of me. It was advertised locally and, of course, the salary range is provided in that ad. So, I'll get the member a copy of the advertisement. I didn't know he was looking for a new job.
The member opposite compares net estimates to net estimates - apples to apples - which is correct and how they should be compared. The member opposite is suggesting that because some of the net estimated spending on the Mayo school, for example, was not spent, therefore the figures are skewed. Well, the member has to look at the whole picture and realize that there are also net capital estimated projects last year that came in overbudget. That was the net capital-spending estimate last year and this is the net capital-spending estimate this year, and there is a seven-percent increase. There is more money - net capital money - being spent in this territory than there was last year. And that's on important infrastructure for Yukoners.
Mr. Jenkins: What the minister is failing to tell the House is that it's estimated to be spent. Last year, it's almost a reality as to what was spent. We have a pretty firm handle on what was spent. I point out, for the minister's sake, that if it's in a Liberal riding - like Hamilton Boulevard - and there was a cost overrun, the government proceeded with the expenditure. But when it's in a rural riding, like the Mayo school, which could have kept a number of tradespeople from all over Yukon employed throughout this winter, the project is cancelled and retendered.
And the information I have is that the floor plan is not altered significantly from the floor plan of the previous tendered documents, and that, Mr. Chair, could lead to a charge against this government of bid-shopping, for cancelling this project in the manner they did. Does the minister not agree?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Does the member opposite not agree that, when projects have come in overbudget, not of our making, that this government has responded in a fair manner? For example, have we not responded to the community of Dawson?
Mr. Jenkins: As I understand the roles here, Mr. Chair, I'm to ask the questions and the Premier is to respond to the questions, not answer a question with a question.
But if the minister is not up to responding with answers to the questions that are posed to her because she either does not know or doesn't want to tread in those political hot waters -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. It's important that I hear the Member for Klondike, so I'd ask the House to respect his ability to speak in the House.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate you bringing the House to order.
What we have here is a Premier who is either failing to answer the questions or can't answer the questions. Now, if she can't answer the questions, all she has to do is ask her very capable officials for a briefing, which she so frequently offers the opposition when she doesn't understand the question or the issue.
Now, she might want to sit down with her Deputy Minister of Finance, who is eminently qualified to explain these various aspects of finance to the Premier, Mr. Chair. But to answer a question with a question doesn't move us anywhere in this budget debate, so I'd ask the minister, in her future responses, to be as specific as she can in her responses and, you know, to not wander all over the plate. That's the Liberal way to hide behind the reality of the day, and she probably has a good teacher, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Eftoda, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair, I would like a ruling from the Chair on whether or not questions can be asked both ways in this House in general debate. Thank you.
Mr. Keenan: I do believe that that question was answered in the previous session that we had sat during the summer, and it was ruled that, no. You do have a benchmark.
Chair: Order please. We are going to study the Hansard from the summer when there was a similar question. We will ask the House to recess for five minutes. Do we have leave to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We have a recollection of a ruling and we're going to be studying the ruling and coming back with an answer for Committee of the Whole next time Committee of the Whole sits, which I imagine will be Monday. Until then, I would ask that members only direct their questions to the Cabinet and we would ask, in the interim, that any Cabinet ministers do not direct their questions back to the opposition.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, just to be helpful, I can recollect from about three months ago the same minister asking the same Chair the same question, so that might be a good starting point for your research.
Chair: Yes, we have a Speaker's ruling that we're looking under. Thank you very much, Mr. McRobb.
So, as I understand it, Ms. Duncan has the floor.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps I could just respond to the questions from the member opposite and some of the comments that the member opposite has made.
Again, I'd like to remind the members opposite, who continually state that the government is simply spending money on itself, that a great deal of Yukon taxpayers' expenditures in this budget are being spent with Yukoners and on behalf of Yukoners toward the betterment of our community.
Some of these expenditures include the public schools program, $56.5 million, the community health and nursing program, $16.4 million, $27.8 million to medical services, and an additional $19.6 million in the operating grant to the Whitehorse General Hospital.
I may stand to be corrected that that should read "Yukon Hospital Corporation". There's also $9.5 million for social assistance payments in the operation and maintenance budget, and $5.1 million in child care operating grants and subsidies. We committed during the election campaign to increase the post-secondary student grant and scholarships. And the price tag, if you will, for this initiative in this year's Yukon territorial budget is $3.7 million. There's also $1.4 million in legal aid, which is a substantial increase, which previous governments have not seen fit to recognize the need for.
There is also $31.6 million in highway maintenance, and we are very proud of being able to achieve that estimated expenditure, Mr. Chair, as highways spending had been decreasing at an alarming rate and was the cause of concern for a number of Yukoners.
There's also, in the operation and maintenance expenditures, $11.8 million in municipal grants, which provides a level of funding to Yukon communities, which helps them also provide the most basic services to all our citizens - to all of us. As we all know, municipal government is the level of government that gets the complaints about the dogs and deals with water, sewer and garbage pickup, and that $11.8-million transfer helps them to deal with those issues.
There is another item I would like to point out to the Member for Klondike. We had talked about the estimate of private sector job creation in the capital mains and supplementary estimates for the Government of Yukon. The 2000-01 main estimates were that there would be 647.3 private sector jobs. In the 2001-02 mains, the private sector FTEs - that is, the private sector, full-time equivalents contained within this budget - are 677.74, or almost 700.
The member opposite likes to take great issue with the use of "sustain" versus "create", and I would suggest to the member opposite that the real issue for Yukoners isn't the arguing over the words and the specific letters in the word or the choice of the word. The real issue is: how many jobs, how is this budget going to put Yukon people to work, how is it going to help maintain our infrastructure, and what's it going to do for Yukoners to maintain and work to improve our quality of life in this territory?
We are pleased with what we have done so far, and I would encourage the members opposite to continue with their questions in general debate. The member opposite also raised questions around the Mayo school - its timing and its construction. Again, I would remind the member opposite that tenders for the Mayo school close on March 8.
We fully expect that construction will begin prior to the end of this fiscal year, as we have previously committed to. We have worked with the community on this particular project - with the contracting community, the community in Mayo, Nacho Nyak Dun, the school advisory committee and the community council. I know that all members are going to be very pleased, and particularly the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, to be part of the celebration of that school opening in the very near future.
I believe I have fully responded to any questions from the Member for Klondike, Mr. Chair. And in light of the hour, perhaps you could consider adjourning Committee of the Whole for the day, and we'll look forward to resuming debate on Monday.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that we do now report progress.
Ms. Duncan: If the members opposite wish to continue, I can elaborate on the budget.
Chair: The original motion must stand. It can't be withdrawn. So it has been moved by Ms. Duncan that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Tucker that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:54 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled March 1, 2001:
Pre-budget consultations by Government: list by meeting including attendees
Oral, Hansard, p. 992-993